The Cow

Somebody asked me the other day if I knew of Nietzsche’s cow.  I stopped, I thought and I couldn’t remember Nietzsche ever having a cow – just a town named after a cow in Zarathustra [die bunte Kuh].  So I answered, “huh? Nietzsche and a cow?”  To which I was pointed towards Nietzsche’s Untimely Meditations [Vom Nutzen und  Nachteil der Historie für das Leben].  Nietzshe’s cow represents the power of forgetting.  To all of those philosophers and scientists who are worried about taking the next step, about making concrete progress, Nietzsche presents a cow.  The cow forgets and forgetting births the possibility of creating something new, of becoming individual.

I forgot about Nietzsche’s cow, which has me convinced that I remembered him all the more.  Convenient!

cowandduck

p.s. Nietzsche’s cow is not to be confused with his camel, his lion, his snake, his eagle, his donkey, his human or his sister.

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God is dead

nietzscheisdead.gif

If people know only one thing about Friedrich Nietzsche it is that he is responsible for the quote “God is dead!” (Gott ist tot!). This phrase is often taken out of context and abused. There is the Christian T-shirt reaction that in a sick way celebrates the death of a great thinker (there have been other versions showing him drunk):

There are the reactions people write on the walls while in the bathroom: “God is dead. Nietzsche is dead. I live.” To which a second party often writes, “but for how long?”

When Nietzsche’s quote is left by itself for too long some people even try to use logic to show that Nietzsche contradicts his own atheism; namely, “if God is dead he must have lived at one point!”

This all overshadows what Nietzsche was trying to say, that he was actually trying to criticize atheists. Unfortunately for theists he wasn’t criticizing them for not believing in God, he criticized them for not being able to accept the consequences of their own conviction, their conviction behind their godlessness.

Unlike the atheists in the marketplace of Nietzsche’s Gay Science, Nietzsche feels the death of God to be a heavy responsibility – not only as an opening of a new horizon but akin to the experience of a small ship on stormy ocean waters. The atheists in the marketplace, not taking on this responsibility, have rid their lives of the name “God” but not of things godly.

Nietzsche’s passion is experiencing this open horizon, is being on the small ship on open waters and experiencing a wild personal freedom. God is dead. Nietzsche is dead. Try to live passionately.

Mr. T and Nietzsche

mr_t.jpgWhat do Mr. T and Nietzsche have in common? Their view of pity. I was thinking about this the other night while trying to fall asleep – I don’t know why but I just kept seeing Mr. T yelling at people and pitying fools.

Mr. T uses pity to exert his power over the fool. That fool is so lowly that he deserves nothing less than the pity of a much more confident, strong and bejeweled Mr. T. Being on the receiving end of this pity is never a good thing – it is, oppositely, the cruelest form of degradation. “Pity” for Mr. T is just another shiny golden necklace, another pose where he’s flexing, another way for him to show people just how much better he is than they are. To be pitied by Mr. T is to know what it’s like being a nobody, to have a mass of greatness remind you of your insignificance. T is well aware of what he’s doing when he’s pitying someone, he knows that he’s degrading them, that he’s exerting his power – he must have read Nietzsche. Not that Nietzsche would have promoted Mr. T’s actions but that he exposed Christian pity as being a way to make people feel small.

nietzsche.jpgI think it is understandable that when T belts that he “pities the fool!” he isn’t trying to be nice. What happens when the church pities? I imagine their reasons being that they feel sorry for someone, that they want to spread love, to help. Nietzsche imagines their actual reasons being that they want to make small, to subordinate, to dominate, to exert their power, to take advantage. Does the same thing happen when Mr. T yells “I pity the fool!” as when the pope says “I pity you, my son”?. Does the tone of the voice actually change what “happens”? Nietzsche expects the counter-argument which states that it is the intention that counts – T wants to degrade, the pope wants to help. What does Nietzsche have to say? Don’t believe the church – their actions are no different from Mr. T’s (he didn’t actually say this), they want to exert their power by pitying, by making people feel small. The difference is that Mr. T is honest with himself when he pities (he knows he’s being cruel) and the church isn’t (they may or may not be aware of their “hidden” intentions). The only thing I mean by “hidden” is only that a lie replaces the truth if it is repeated often enough (we are just helping, helping, helping).

Just like pity is an extra gold necklace for the king of badass, pity is an extra golden ring on the hand of the pope – there to make you feel small, to make you remember who the one with power is.

Not that feeling sorry for someone automatically means you are exerting your power over them – that’s why we have concepts like “fellow-feeling”, empathy, compassion and other healthy alternatives that don’t take advantage of the second party (Nietzsche’s own “concept” is being “over-full”).

was ist Philosophie überhaupt?

In introductory courses in Philosophy Professors struggle to define “philosophy” for the students during the first week of instruction. The explanation I received was the standard explanation – one that breaks down the word “philosophy” into its original Greek parts… philia and sophia. Philia is translated as “love” while sophia is translated as “knowledge”, slap them together and you have “love of knowledge” – the perfect cereal box definition of philosophy. Being so vague in describing philosophy is useful for many reasons, the biggest of which is that philosophy is an incredibly difficult subject area to define. It is hard to define the goals of philosophy when these goals themselves are being repeatedly undermined by philosophers.

During my reading today I came across a quote from The Will to Power that Löwith uses in one of his numerous essays on Nietzsche. I didn’t start thinking about it until I was on the bus going home.

“What is the first and last thing a philosopher demands of himself? To overcome his age in himself, to become ‘timeless.'”F.N.

What is philosophy? The attempt to overcome the knowledge of the age? Sounds very lofty. Very few philosophers became “untimely” and revolutionized thought but that does not stop thousands of philosophers around the world from trying. Working with students of archeology I sometimes get jealous of the systematic nature of their subject. Clear defined goals and clear defined ways of getting there. Where should I dig for my knowledge?

monk by the sea

Philosophers try and change the way people think. I suppose that is the secret desire. Saying that, however, is too embarrassing – so I guess sticking with the cereal box definition is enough for now, lest we be laughed at by students in introductory courses.

he’s still my homeboy even though we have our differences

An ex-girlfriend made this for me quite some time ago. I just stumbled upon it while going through some of my Nietzsche documents saved on my laptop. This image belongs out on the internet and not saved in some dark corner of my hard drive.

Homeboy