Friday, January 25, 2013

The Rebel, Entry 5, Nietzsche part 1

     I figure it will take me more than one entry to handle what Camus says about Nietzsche in this section of the book(still 'Metaphysical Rebellion'). In the popular mind Nietzsche is a god killer who went crazy; others try to turn Nietzsche into a thinker with political views commensurate with contemporary liberalism. The main thing to understand about Nietzsche is that he accuses Western culture of being nihilistic -- he's not a proponent of  nihilistic resignation, he is a diagnostician.  Camus writes:

"Nietzsche never thought except in terms of an apocalypse to come, not in order to extol it, for he guessed the sordid and calculating aspect that this apocalypse would finally assume, but in order to avoid it and to transform it into a renaissance. He recognized nihilism for what it was and examined it as a clinical fact...He said of himself that he was the first complete nihilist of Europe.  Not by choice, but by condition, and because he was too great to refuse the heritage of his time. He diagnosed in himself, and in others, the inability to believe and the disappearance of the primitive foundation of all faith -- namely, the belief in life."(pg. 66)

The problem is how to live without replacing primitive beliefs with other gods. Here Camus says, and I think this is very powerful:

"...Nietzsche did not form a project to kill God. He found Him dead in the soul of his contemporaries. He was the first to understand the immense importance of the event and to decide that this rebellion on the part of men could not lead to a renaissance unless it was controlled and directed."(pg. 68)

Now, some people reading this may be believers: I'm not here to tell you God is dead for you, just that this is how Nietzsche diagnosed the Europe of his day. He believed there was no turning back to God and wants to propose ways forward without regret or regression. Nietzsche proposes the rejection of all traditional values as decadent and replacing it with more 'Homeric' values. Nietzsche rejects Jesus' words as the opposite of rebellion. Jesus, so Nietzsche says, supports nonresistance rather than rebellion. This is more or less what Nietzsche refers to as 'slave morality'.  Nietzsche further accuses Paul and the Church as adding Judgement, reward and punishment etc.. to the mix.

Camus writes:
"Christianity believes that it is fighting against nihilism because it gives the world a sense of direction, while it is really nihilist itself in so far as, by imposing an imaginary meaning on life, it prevents the discovery of real meaning..."(pg. 69)

In the next entry on Nietzsche I'll take on what Camus writes about Nietzsche and socialism.

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