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Episode #158 ... The Creation of Meaning - Nietzsche - The Ascetic Ideal

2021-10-05 | 🔗

Today we look at the creation of meaning through the work of Nietzsche. 

This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Hello, everyone, I'm Stephen West. This is philosophize this three ways you can help. Keep this thing going patriarch. If you wanted to be automatic, whenever an episodes release freedom, listen to one time, country recently the website or you can get March with the show stuff on it, both those things philosophize this org, I hope you'll, have the show today. So in keeping with episode, let's continue this discussion, beginning from a place that we're all very familiar with that. Nothing, you care about. Actually matters on any objective level, you don't matter your dreams, don't matter your pet guinea pay name Clarence. He doesn't matter but lucky for you, and parents. There are these superheroes out their name philosophers and if flown to save the day for you, you're born, HU, a disinterested universe, feel a little crummy philosophers gonna take up their stethoscope and dying no see with some sort of nihilism flu, but don't worry worry they got the antidote. They're gonna prescribe a hundred species, a meaning, teach you how to create that meaning at home Fixy up a bit and is,
wonderful that we Had these meaning creation experts on hand right when we needed than the most but a totally vat. Question. Seventy might ask about this. Entire state of affairs is to ask the question why in the first place Do we just assume that we need a philosopher to diagnose and proscribed meaning to things anyway? Like who are any of these people who died in plane, We did then the moral arbiters of humanity, and why do we than big of a sermon on Mount Tellin us the reasons why things matter. I mean to be honest with you, this person might say: sometimes it doesn't exist feel like. We need an expert technician on this morality. Stuff kind of veal, sometimes like these philosophers, are just over thank and things times are tough out there. Maybe it's a job security thing, fact is look. We know that things matter to us. That's far from a mystery. We now a good person when we see one and not a surprise. Is throughout my life, when I feel like I'm doing something meaningful, I'm not pulling out my
field manual inciting paragraph twelve verse, three of the Mackey and ethics as the philosophical justified, patient, for why I feel that way couldn't be But there's some sort of normative ethical compass imbued indoor DNA, the source of intense feelings like jealousy revenge, guilt, envy, compassion, things that seem like just a natural response, rather than a response based on any sort of rational abstraction? The big question is: this: are the latent values that produce these kinds of feelings, something. Into our biology, or could it be that they are learned somehow The reason this answer is important. It's because think about it. It feeling good bad about certain behaviors was truly something embedded into our nature as human beings, and we, are a part of the universe. Couldn't someone make a case, that there's some sort of value system written into the universe, then again for someone to say, that these things are entirely learned. Behaviors. They better have a pretty good answer as to where these things even come from
but whether these values are written or their learned, the information were seeking is only going to come. If we take a deeper look at some of these seemingly natural behaviors and try to figure them out better, we'll take a look at a few of them, The eyes of nature's work, but first I want to talk about one of them. The work of ceremony before just personal This is one of my favorite essays, exploring the concept of revenge her earlier essay idled an eye for an eye, and it should be said she later rights and our autobiography, among other places, that she doesn't agree with everything she wrote necessity when she was so much younger, I mean, but person doesn't evolve and their thinking over the years. But the general point remains to set the stage, though some thoughts on revenge overall, once again on the surface, revenge seems to be pretty natural and it can be easy think about it in a very straightforward way. Somebody does something deliberately just to mess with you and you want them to feel the pain or inconvenience that they caused? You there's a party that wants to correct the wrong. That's been committed to balance the scales.
You know what somebody comes over and starts messing with the stuff. You got going on Sunday You want to knock the ice cream cone out of their hands a little bit, see their fate. Scrunch up, teach him a lesson so right off the bat notice. The fact that, in a meaningless universe, where why do anything Nothing, really matters. Revenge revenge is something its people out of bed in the morning. Revenge can be. Our full motivator to someone otherwise, in the trenches of an existential crisis where nothing seems to matter, what exactly are we trying to accomplish with revenge? Is it about making things right for the victim, and the situation will consider some other aspects? revenge, consider the fact that we not only seek revenge for ourselves as victims, we often seek revenge on behalf of other people who were victims. We seek revenge when there isn't a clear way. Or even when the victims are dead and no longer with us, capable of witnessing the revenge some Bevoir cutting down to the it explores the more specific question: what function is revenge truly
serving as a psychological or social phenomenon, specifically essay she was examining, whether or not it was morally justifiable to commit acts of political violence as a means of society getting revenge towards someone who has done something horrible to other people, let's say enslaving or killing. People. Now, within the context of her philosophy of ambiguity that we talked about, time where willing the freedom of others is gonna, be the ultimate goal. The desire to seek revenge on this kind of a person makes total sense. This person has robbed people of their subjectivity. They ve turned a person or a group of people into merely an object as fodder for their own purposes. And we a strong desire to correct that wrong and balance the scales. We want a lock this person up. We want to remove their subjectivity, even publicly harm or killed this person. The thinking being that we want them to feel what it's like to be made into merely an object like they made other people feel more than that, though, she says it's important to recognize that we want something else from this act of revenge. We want the person to feel bad about
they ve done. We want them to sit there and have a long time to reflect on the fact that they are reaping what they sold. The problem for some only bavarian necessity is that we can never control another person subjectivity and because of that, we can never make someone feel any specific way about any thing they did but kept for someone to feel the pain the victim felt, but and if someone's enslaving are killing people, they can see their crimes and any light they choose to see them, they could truly leave. They're a fallen hero in this situation. Trying to make the world a better place, they could say that they're just being silenced by counter fascists out there, that they're dying for a greater cause. Many different options here So if there is some sort of natural desire, we have to get even with this person to make them feel what the victim of the situation felt. We can't ever guarantee that there's a sense in which the victim oftentimes has very little to do with our selfish desires towards vengeance, so for some the above or if the goal through acts of violence
sake of revenge is to balance the sky, of wrongdoing, we're not really correcting anything there with violence to be cut she's, not saying that we should and punish people that turn other people into objects. On the contrary, its very important that we do punish people but greater philosophical point that she's making is that we should understand the function of what it is, we're trying to do with acts of revenge. We are not forcing someone to feel the pain the victim felt. Revenge is about something else. We are making a statement symbolically as a person as a society that we are going to put up with people denying the subjectivity of others and treating them like their less than human so on one hand, revenge can seem like a sort of natural inclination to get back at someone or balance the cosmic scales and, on the other hand it can look like it has almost nothing to do with paying reparations to the victim. Seemed more like a symbolic gesture in the interest of governing future behaviour through punishment. Now remember this point: let's move over to the work of new
for a little, and let's talk about another example of one of these intense feelings that we have, that seems to be natural. This is a close second cousin of something like revenge, the concept of guilt when it comes to guilt, same sort of thing we do something that something has a negative impact on a victim, and when you look back you wish he had done something different, Sir It's pretty natural at that point to feel guilty about what you ve done towards that victim, just like with revenge. Guilt can be pretty easy to think about in a straightforward way. Let's start with the question: what is the function of guilt as a social or psychological phenomenon? Do we feel guilty in consideration of the victim, but let's consider some more aspects of for a second consider the fact that people feel guilty for things whether or not there even is a victim or whether anyone feel slighted by what they did at all. People feel guilty when they we're done anything or for not doing enough. People feel guilty
loosely being associated to some process that victimized people nature would want us to notice that the feeling of guilt does next nothing in terms of reparations on behalf of whoever the victim was. You can feel guilty about something and then do things that help the victim sure, but notice that you can do that. Whether you feel guilty about something you're, not guilt is a very self centered self directed? Feeling guilt is a feeling that you have towards yourself and about yourself guilt Nietzsche, says when you really look at it starts to look a lot like Self punishment and similar to revenge in the early s, bus ammonia. Before this feeling of guilt, this link and feeling and self punishment is not something that is done to come ACT, any sort of moral imbalance or pay reparations guilt doesn't actually solve the poor on that supposedly caused it, it seems resemble in internal form of self punishment that we administer and ultimately becomes something that's a governor of
your behavior in our lives now so far, we've taken a look at revenge guilt. These feelings that seem to be just a part. Human nature at its core, and we said earlier that, if anyone is going to make a case that these sorts of universal human emotions are somehow learned, they're going to need a pretty good story, We as to how all that happened. There shades of death when going on here, you know in a worldwide could seem like natural things about ourselves are very human. Nature was created to correspond with the environment that wherein natural selection provides an alternative explanation for how our traits were actually inherited, passed down to US duration by generation, if this is a genealogy of our physical nature as human beings that since the reason Nita titles, the book we're talking about today, the Genie energy a morality? This is the alternative explanation for how these latent values, can seem entirely a part of human nature, when, in reality, they ve been inherited. Like any other tradition from our cultural past,
the same way. Certain collections of physical traits survive and propagate in certain environments. Certain collections, of moral intuitions, survive and propagate within specific social environments. The ones temporary western society had inherited during the time of nature, came primarily judeo christian values make sense that, if he's gonna start telling the story of the genealogy of morality, the story begins in the first reading of the book. Talking about the different and moral intuitions of societies that predate judeo christian values. What did the idea of goodness or virtue look like in these cultures? Well, typically, in these just being virtuous did not mean that you appealed to a select group of behaviors predetermined for you. Chiseled into stone somewhere, usually need just as the virtues people embodied corresponded with whatever. So the class they found themselves in which virtues serve them within it. Now simultaneously, there was a hierarchical structure to society that oppressed most of the people
the higher social classes were made up of people that embody virtues that served them and their social positions. If you're a war, or maybe you embody the virtue of courage or pride if you were in the political realm, maybe you were power seeking or cunning if you were a king, maybe we're greedy or strong. The point is just notice that all three of these, at the very least are willing to undermine the interests of others for the sake of their own desires. Meanwhile, on the other side of this hierarchical structure, where people that were oppressed and very little ability to do anything about it. So on this side you see people mainly adopting the virtues of self sacrifice. They are humble meek, grateful for whatever they have. They don't need anything else in life and as a result strong or powerful. Isn't really something these people care too much about they care more about helping their neighbour, altruism, and hierarchies haven't exactly been very kind to someone in this place, so they're, usually proponents of egalitarianism. These virtues make up what nature
first, who as a slave morality. They are exactly the kind of things you'd expect someone to value if they were embedded into the social structure. Now, given enough time Nietzsche says what you'd also expect them to do to art hating their oppressors and the people that embodied virtues that Sir them in the higher social classes. So, if we think of this dynamic as a sort of battlefield of moral intuitions. The oppressed social class in the interest of identifying their enemy, create a new moral category that encapsulated the primary virtues of the people that occupied positions of power, this the creation of the concept of evil evil as a counterpoint to goodness didn't exist in societies until he recent specific point in history to get what you want by undermining the press Or well being of other people was now sir to be seen as evil a new binary was created where people thought of conduct in terms of this interplay between good versus
So, instead of the way it had been at points in the past, where there was a large population of just ordinary people, not just people with Sir an exceptionally virtuous people being heralded as good people that you can look up to in this new world. Practically everybody has a good purse so long as they embody that slave morality, where they value self, sacrifice humility and make sure you're not too powerful, are dangerous this new world to say to someone else. You are not a good person is an insult to say that is not taken a saying that you're, just an ordinary person like me, like all the rest of us know, being a good person, is the standard and then goodness is defined by this cult of self sacrifice for others, and anything power seeking for the sake of having control any greediness any desire for strength, so that you might use it to take what you want in the world. These behaviors are typically seen as
or, at the very least, viewed with a heavy heavy scepticism. I mean it can start to feel kind of like the beginning of the episode like this is not rocket science. The person that sacrifices there time to help. Somebody else who is going through a rough time is just far away a better person than someone who spends their time working towards gaining power over people. This concern like such a solid moral truism that it's almost treated Oh, it's, some sort of moral, absolute chiseled into stone tablets, if you will, but the is where Nietzsche's going to do the most Nietzsche thing in the world see if there was ever a hallmark of his work, it's that he loves to take something that's widely accepted by people as true and then present it from a different perspective active and show how the obvious initial take on the thing is not even close to the full story, the point being mostly to take a little win, of the sales of anyone who has full confidence in some over simplified, take on reality, We saw an example of this in part, four of our nature series on love. We looked at the idea of envy,
actually one of the seven deadly sins. Typically, thought of by most to be horrible, certainly not an effective usage of your time to sit around being envious of other people and what they have, but me to talk about how you view envy from a different perspective. It actually can be a useful tool, a personalized custom made directive for anyone who feels a little bit lost on what to do with their life, because, if you're one of people sitting around feeling. Like you, don't really know what you want to do, because it honestly doesn't feel like there's Anything in this world that you really want. Well, maybe a useful place to start nature says is to try to notice the things and cool. Ladys you envy and other people at the very least, a something to get your thoughts inspired in the right direction, envy is one example of nature being nature. But not immune to this treatment. Are these generally accepted moral truisms that our inherited from the past? He thought the people of his time we're supremely confident in this over simple, I'd binary, take on morality of good and evil, and wasn't. Gonna have any of that
was gonna, show them how basic there thinking was one false, more absolute at a time. So, let's start with compassion today who doesn't like compassion, I mean kind of a sick person. Would you have to be to have a problem with someone living their life with the attitude that we should have as much compassion is possible towards people who are suffering. Why not have compassion once again, Nita would want us to look at this from a slightly different perspective about this whole idea that we should feel so pity for anybody experiencing any level of suffering before we get too who sold on that idea? Let's make sure to remember the fact that suffering is built into life itself, there is no escaping it and for every desperate, helpless victim out there. There ten thousand people suffering and less extreme ways we're having pity for them might actually do more harm than good. It might just prolong their suffering or even make suffering can hey just as he says on one passage. Withal met. People like this in our lives more than that, though he'd want is to ask what is that
natural next step when we're being compassionate toward someone's plight and life. Well, it's usually to try to actually do something in an attempt to help that person Nietzsche, would probably want to ask that. Isn't it a bit arrogant in most cases for you to assume that you are the one to help this person now only the possibly condescending assumption that you know what's best for this person, but also that you are qualified to even help them just because somebody is suffering and needs help doesn't mean, you're the best one for the job like if someone's appendix births, he'd surgery and are lying on. The ground doesn't mean that you who throw on a covert mask, grab a stake knife from your kitchen and get to work. What just cause that makes you feel better, I had to at least try. They would say no sometimes trying to help someone whose suffering when you're not qualified. For the I can just end up hurting the more or hurt you or hurt. The people around you not to mention Nita says,
it may robbed them of an opportunity to turn something seemingly negative in the skills that will help them in the future. Maybe it robs them of the satisfaction they might otherwise have had if they solve the problem themselves. Now somebody might say back to this. Well, that's not compassion mean I agree with almost everything Nietzsche is saying there, but that's not my kind of compassion, compassion is much more than that. Compassion isn't just pity or whatever Nietzsche is talking about there. Well, let's see Google defines compassion, sympathetic, pity and concern for the suffering. Or misfortunes of others. So if you're, one of these people coming to the defence of compassion is some sort of moral. Absolute, don't be ashamed But that is exactly the sensibility. Nietzsche's saying is the problem with how we think about morality in contemporary western society, where our minds have been practically poisoned to be in a constant pursuit towards this false ideal of objective morality or objective truth. This attitude, for when you hear me,
say anything critical compassion. Oh, he must be. He must be trying to refute compassion. He must be trying to argue for something else. No he's operating in a much more nuanced place in that he's, not trying to offer a new dogma to replace people's old dogmas, he's not interested in Pay on to this attitude that there are a million wrong answers in the world and a single correct answer that I have access to this attitude that reaction itself is somehow stable enough to categorize and define in a binary way to Nietzsche. It's not not interested in offering you a counter system so that we can all pretend like it is. That's the entire problem. You may remember, and our episode on being and becoming that needs, is extremely sceptical of any attempt to create a system that claims to grab a hold of and quantifies unstable, grounded depiction of reality. The visual, the sand dune as a process and how moment snapshots of any aspect of that sand. Dune can never capture the sand dune in its entire
clarity blowing in the wind constantly changing the real of the universe and of morality is that they are not stable to needs they can never be understood in terms of absolutes. The fact is that our example of how compassion can hurt people more than help them are examples of how undermining the interests are well being of other people would not be a moral absolute of evil. If you doubt this, just think of anyone who seeks power in the world for the sake of overthrowing a corrupt system. Think of anyone who makes promotion from somebody else and makes the world a better place with that position Out of this universe is that it is unstable Tunisia. This is the Natural state of affairs, but people for many years, Don't like the idea that truth and morality are unstable, so they ve created all sorts of cow Turn natural, that's the word counter natural attempts to transit this natural instability of things- these are
the various religious, philosophical, cultural, rational constructions that we come up with to try to give us an illusion of stability, but in the sense that they deny the true unstable nature of reality. They are life denying by definition. They are counter natural, the entire ideal that there's driving towards is a denial of the sort of dynamic perspective. Isn't that Nietzsche just channeling here bottom line? Is you don't like the way the world is? So you live your life in a constant state of denial about it, I'll about the feelings and desires you have denial about the level of confidence you in your understanding of the world and one of just main concerns is to think of where this constant state of denial psychologically leaves the average citizen of modernity facing a new kind of existential crisis. This thing we ve been talking on the series but there's no meaning to anything God is dead. I mean for lack of better phrase you're really preaching to the choir with each other. This new metaphysical framework that we operate within changes
experience of the modern individual psychologically, for example, the way that it used to be this counter naturalism. This attempt to transcend the natural state of things think of how this presents itself in the mind of a Christian the Bible gives a christian and explanation that allows them to transcend the natural instability of truth, and it provides them in objective moral code. There commanded to follow, which allows them to transcend the natural instability of morality, Liberal moral life is to steer towards certain good behaviors steer away from certain bad behaviors now another way to say that is to say that they are to affirm and act on certain internal feelings and desires. They have to deny and not act on certain evil feelings and desires. Now within the metaphysical frame work of Christianity. This makes total sense when you act on these evil design errors and deadly sins, and you feel guilty about it. You are go. Against the will of God. You should feel guilty, there's a god, that's disappointed and
There is real meaning attached to this process of renouncing these large pieces of yourself, but think of what happens when we make just a slight metaphysical shift, and now we're born into a disinterested universe. Well, we still culturally inherit. The moral, absolutes and cult of self sacrifice, but now there's no will or decree of a God, to give a legitimate meaning to having this guilt now you're born into a universe where you're just a subspecies of primate and these desires and feelings that you have are not evil. It's not evil, but pulling up inside of you now these feelings that you're having their just a part of what it is to be you, the part of you, that most people judge you for the part of They have to feel bad about every day and deny the part of you that you eventually start to start to hate in yourself. You start questions questions. Why am I so weak? Why am I such a person. Why don't? I feel the way I'm supposed to feel you're reading books watching videos trying to understand why you're such a piece of human garbage, but what
these things are not something to deny, but just another piece of the complex process. That is you not simple or stay enough to be defined by binaries or categories, and then you feel guilty that you're, not that simple, so you punish yourself you hold on to that resentment towards yourself, because that's what a god would do if it actually existed. Where does all this leave you psychologically almost by default? then, on top of it all, when the primary social cue you face on a day to day basis, is that you earn respect from people when you abide by the altruistic, egalitarian cell, sacrificial moral approach. You are applauded when you sacrifice your feelings and dreams and put them on the backburner? For the sake of the greater good or every one else around you not a surprise, nature would say that this tends to leave the average person living in modernity. A bit disoriented to be a reasonable person is to be born on a crash course into nihilism and self denial, religious, philosophical scientific approaches, systematized this denial of certain evil parts of ourselves
guilt is used as an internal mechanism to keep this the status quo, and we live in a constant state of Self condemnation that we become the judge, jury and executioner of guilt almost starts to look like that we carry around with us Nietzsche, says and then through self punishment. We earn salvation from this part of ourselves that we hate we see. Tendency towards self condemnation, show up in various religious practices through the ritual of asceticism, Google defines asceticism as severe self discipline and avoidance of all forms of indulgence, typically for religious reasons, in other words, a systematized form of self denial that then becomes pathway, sea, because here's the thing nature was concerned that there is no guarantee that these historically inherited traditions of self denial will ever lead when in game for the modern individual that psychologically healthy. Many, western are still to this day? Live their lives in?
pathology. That nature refers to as the aesthetic ideal characterized by this binary thinking and is to transcend the natural instability of the world through categories like good versus evil? True versus false, the type of thinking that can lead otherwise perfectly reasonable people into, hatred of themselves for feeling the wrong way or a hatred of their neighbours Believing the wrong thing. The point of this episode is: are we not to agonize over whether morality is grounded in nature or culture. We talked enough about that on the show. The point is that We're gonna have any serious discussion about creating meaning in your life and a disinterested universe. It may be a mystery to you that you care about things or what you care about where and how those values were created can be extremely helpful, because these are the oars. Genes of a moral approach. That's already managed to captivate you at some level. Ultimately, if you're gonna try to get your own values, you better make sure they at least serve you in the world who are currently living rather than just taken them from the past arbitrarily.
Doing an impression of what your great great grandpa thought, a good life was mean at that point, when not just dress up like the guy, get some overalls and pretend like you're on a steam engine, but moving forward into the creative process. With all this talk of guilt? What is needed are saying about the creation of meaning here. Is he saying that we shouldn't be disciplined and renounce certain behaviors and desires that hurt us or other people know Is he saying that truth is entirely relative, it's all a matter of perspective and there's no way to delineate between which perspectives are more legitimate than others. Definitely not what he saying once again, if your tendency was to instantly think that nature was arguing for the opposite, noticed that binary polarized wave, It's easy to fall into that requires there to be a million different wrong answers. One correct answer and lives in constant denial of the true instability and new ones that we have to contend with. The larger question is this: in a post, God is dead. World were told a couple things as people
that when it comes to truth, don't worry we're working on it? We have science when it comes to morality. Don't worry, we have philosophy, but are these? Two the grand liberators from the religious counter natural chains of the past, or are these The most recent manifestations of this ascetic ideal. This will to truth, or objectivity is being the final goal. Next episode will talk about this built in crisis of epistemology in a world where people get their depictions of reality from a series of moving pictures on a screen, we'll talk about the creation of meaning through the eyes of nature, passages from his book, the Anti Christ and An observer of him might take away from a lifetime of his writing as someone who was never in the business of creating some systematized method for people to follow, but maybe a good question to leave you with here today. That will get us thinking in that direction is something Nietzsche talks about only very briefly he mentions,
so we plans to expand on this in depth in the future and another book, but ultimately never does leaving a lot of people to speculate about where he would have taken this. Who knows maybe somebody out there listen to this will be the one to write about it. But the point is: if what we ve been talking about here so far has any validity. Nature at one point talks about how it's this will to truth or this imperative towards objectivity. That's leading all these potential problems and that if anybody's gonna try to offer up an alternative system which again, he is not trying to do, but if someone did try to sell Bert, the dominant narrative of the aesthetic ideal. They would have to call the question, one of the most fundamental things that people just blindly, except the value of truth as goal in our social systems seems kind. Difficult to imagine a system that calls into question the value of truth. But when nature and by just to do is to just consider the fact that we already have things in place. That do this in other realms. He gives the example of art and here's what he's getting it
in Congo, West comes out with a new album that bomb is not released as a rough station of cardy bees. Work well New tv show comes out, you don't sit there and say: ok, ok, yeah, that show is through true. I was wrong before about last season and dont get me started on that other show that the totally false. Now, as far as I'm concerned, nature is saying that It is a forum where meaningful human expression is currently being made depicting reality from a particular perspective. To be appreciated on grounds that have nothing to do with staking a claim to the truth? You don't hate yourself. Four liking, the music you listen to, and you don't hate other people around you for thinking. Other music is better look. The legitimacy or the meaning of a belief, really came down. Whether or not it were actually true. Then people wouldn't believe anything in this world. So what our actually trying to accomplish in our social systems, and is this old? I deal of a stable truth and dissatisfaction with the
natural world where people see themselves as needed. As in the world but not of the world. We feel almost too good for this world. We have to transcend it in some way. Is This false ideal discontinuing to make people self hating, disoriented, stagnant and miserable where they actually are, and if it is, what he's asking is? Could there be a counter ideal out there can we imagine a system built on a founding sure of accepting the fact that reality is unstable and run The living in denial of that fact could be asked the question fascinated Nita all throughout his work. What kind of natural philosophy Might we be able to create? That's an after me sure of life and not of it much more on that in a week. Thank you for listening I'll talk to you next time
Transcript generated on 2021-10-18.