A Video Of Me Rambling About Nietzsche

This is from 2007 and I just found that it pops right up when one Googles me. It’s hard for me to watch because it involves watching me. But I figured it might be of interest to others. Forgive the extemporaneousness of it all and enjoy some of the more hilarious hand gestures. (My favorite is my demonstration of “stagnating”.) For the most part I still agree with the interpretation of Nietzsche herein, though I would probably shift some emphases and fill some things out better. Overall though it’s probably a decent enough introduction to Nietzsche, especially for those who do not know much about him.

So, in short, in case you have never actually seen or heard me talk and wondered what Camels With Hammers would look and sound like if it were audiovisual (or what my classroom lectures are like), here you go!

Hopefully more videos will be forthcoming soon as I figure out how to go about making them well.

Many thanks to Jon Demaree for doing a bang up job filming this one. It’s part of a series of videos he has made talking to people about their views on philosophy and religion. You can see them all here.

But let me also call special attention, while we are at it, to this video from the series with my closest college friend who became a Nietzschean before I did, but a nihilist sort, and in the process sent me down the path of wrestling with Nietzsche until I lost and had to leave the faith. John eventually returned to Christianity and moved from his Calvinism to Anglicanism to Roman Catholicism to a monastery. He’s a great, deep guy, a dear friend, and in many ways my closest intellectual brother with whom I feel like I grew up as a thinker, regardless of how far afield we ended up philosophically:

Your Thoughts?

  • http://ethicalrealism.wordpress.com James Gray

    Good job summing up Nietzsche in around 10 minutes. Just a few things:

    I don’t think will to power is a choice. It’s not an ought, but there are more life affirming versions of will to power than others. Will to power can motivate creativity or destruction. There is a healthier manifestation of will to power (that reflects life affirmation) rather than the less healthy sickly kind that motivates life denial.

    I also don’t think Nietzsche requires moral anti-realism and I have discussed that in the past. His main concern is health and life affirmation. That seems to imply moral realism rather than deny it. To love life despite pain is not an issue if pain means nothing.

    It is true that Nietzsche agrees to conditional oughts — to do something if you want to live, etc., but that doesn’t require us to accept will to power.

    • Daniel Fincke

      Thanks, those are all my own positions. My apologies if they did not come across as such in the video (it’s both extemporaneous and from three years ago before I had fully cohered the full moral realist account).

      The only thing I’ll stress with relation to what you just said is that the will to power is an ought the way health is an ought (which is what you recognize when you contrast healthy will to power vs. sick will to power, referring to will to power as shorthand essentially is assumed to refer to it in a way that can be assumed to be healthy will to power). And pursuing the conditional oughts is inevitably a way of implicitly pursuing will to power, even if one does not adopt an explicit embrace of it. And again the issue becomes whether we embrace it in a healthy way or a sick way.

  • http://ethicalrealism.wordpress.com James Gray

    We ordinarily think of “will to power” as manipulating the masses, harming the strong (and dangerous) to protect ourselves, domination though cultural authority, etc. To have true power in the healthy sense has less to do with what other people do and what you can get rather than what you can do on your own and get on your own. Healthy will to power won’t rule out leadership or getting something from others, but the primary aim of “power hungry” people tends not to be healthy will to power because such people tend to be quite weak when they are on their own. My point here is merely a semantic defense about why I prefer to phrase things my way.

    And pursuing the conditional oughts is inevitably a way of implicitly pursuing will to power, even if one does not adopt an explicit embrace of it. And again the issue becomes whether we embrace it in a healthy way or a sick way.

    Nietzsche is interested in the survival of the human race and “progress” of the human race in his own sense. If that is healthy will to power through life-affirmation, then I suppose you could say that one “ought” to try to be healthy. It’s also quite possible that acting in good health is really is superior, but that would not necessarily entail an “ought” beyond our own interests.

    It might also be important to notice that the transvaluation of values includes a new understanding of health, which isn’t easy to grasp. Nietzsche’s language is often meant to give a new evaluative meaning meaning without black and white endorsements and rejections. Slave morality rejects the life of the barbarians, and Nietzsche tries to make the barbarians sound wonderful and the “slaves” sound horrible, but this is probably a rhetorical device to help us see values in new ways. He admits that slave morality might be appropriate for some people. Slave morality is associated more with intelligence, which Nietzsche also questions.

    My main point here is that Nietzsche’s new value system (of healthy will to power) seems to be an attempt to incorporate values from both master and slave morality, but I’m not sure exactly how it all works.

    At times Nietzsche seems to endorse expoitation and oppression, but he might be using the rhetorical device in those areas to show that they aren’t as bad as we might think — there is a silver lining. We can’t be “life affirming” without loving life despite pain and suffering. It seems unlikely that Nietzsche thinks we should actively harm ourselves and make ourselves miserable every second of the day. On the other hand it’s not entirely clear if exploitation can be justified as a means to an end.

  • Daniel Fincke

    Yes, will to power does not equate simply to manipulation and exploitation by any stretch. The will to power as I define it, following Bernard Reginster, is the perpetual desire for new resistances one can overcome, the embrace of challenges themselves as the preconditions of growth.

    Nietzsche himself is not so much concerned about the “survivval” or the “progress” of the human race as he is the thriving of the most excellent human beings. I think he underestimates too much the possibilities for (or the value of) genuine progress in spreading excellence more widely through better cultural and technological contexts for life. He is suspicious that all modern culture can do or has done is is make us comfort-junkies and mediocre.

    You keep focusing on pain but that’s not a central issue to Nietzsche. The central issue is excellence, pleasure and pain are interesting insofar as they relate to that.

    And yes you’re on the right basic track when saying that his apparent glorification of the nobles and denigration of the slaves is a matter of counter-corrective to restore good feeling associated with noble values and to undermine the overestimation of slave values. His goal is, as you speculate, a human being who can maximally embody the best of both value sets, “The Ceasar with the Soul of Christ” as he puts it in one place.

    For Nietzsche to contain within oneself a multitude of drives, each with competing perspectives and value awareness, is the precondition of having greater, more manifold, and more truth-conducive perspectives and power. Being someone who can both see the world and feel the world and value the world from such a great number of perspectives and not dissolve internally into chaos but instead harnessing all that power for a constructive, unified life, is the ideal.

    So Nietzsche wants people who overcome the master/slave dichotomy. In the meantime he is pointing out that values arise as reflections of the preconditions of different ways of life. We quite naturally value, in the sense of esteem, what which makes us live, whether individually or as members of a particular group, etc., whoever we are and whatever that precondition of our surviving or thriving is.

    Our value judgments reflect our preconditions in this way as a matter of fact, not always as a matter of ideal. There can be ways of conceiving greater possibilities than most of us settle for (or than mediocre people can attain) and he wants to inspire those who can value greater virtues and thrive through attaining them to set their sights higher. He assumes though the great many are better off with the ordinary standards which are the condition for the ordinary being as tremendously successful in propagating themselves and living long as they are. He just does not think their values treated as absolute will help, but could rather harm, the great who can more fully realize human potential.

  • http://ethicalrealism.wordpress.com James Gray

    Nietzsche himself is not so much concerned about the “survivval” or the “progress” of the human race as he is the thriving of the most excellent human beings. I think he underestimates too much the possibilities for (or the value of) genuine progress in spreading excellence more widely through better cultural and technological contexts for life. He is suspicious that all modern culture can do or has done is is make us comfort-junkies and mediocre.

    He talks specifically about the survival of the human race at one point. He doesn’t think it can survive without progress. What you call “thriving” is equivalent to “progress.” It’s just a semantic difference.

    You keep focusing on pain but that’s not a central issue to Nietzsche. The central issue is excellence, pleasure and pain are interesting insofar as they relate to that.

    Yes, pain and suffering is quite important to him. That’s why he talks so much about it. Nietzsche wants us to overcome and to desire the eternal return. He never said he was able to desire it because life has so much suffering. There is nothing to be overcome if pain and suffering don’t count for anything (what does not kill me makes me stronger). To affirm life to the point of desiring the eternal return is what he defined as the overman in Zarathustra.

    I discuss this in more detail with quotations here: http://ethicalrealism.wordpress.com/2010/03/22/are-intrinsic-value-beliefs-unealthy-a-nietzschean-argument/

    If Nietzsche didn’t care about suffering, then he would have reached the Buddhist “nirvana,” but he disliked Buddhism because suffering has value — but it only has value if it is worth caring about. Suffering’s usefulness comes from the fact that it is worth overcoming.

    What doesn’t kill you can make you stronger or it can make you weaker. Suffering should not be inflicted when it is likely to kill or make weak. Child abuse, murder, and rape are all likely to make people weaker. The healthy attitude is to try to transform suffering into strength. This can be done on purpose through challenging education and obstacles that can be overcome in a controlled environment. People need to learn that failure is found in “not trying” and not challenging oneself rather than trying to meet a goal without reaching it.

  • http://ethicalrealism.wordpress.com James Gray

    For a reference to the human race’s survival consider what he describes as “the last man.”

    Aphorism 188 of Beyond Good says, “You shall obey—someone and for a long time: else you will parish and lose the last respect for yourself”. Nietzsche then adds that this imperative is not for individuals, but it is actually for the entire race of humankind.

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  • Sam Harris Fan

    Nietzsche. Yeah. Sure.

    The man who said…”The elimination of the weak and defective, the first principle of our philosophy! And we should help them to do it.” (The Anti Christ, sec. 2)

    A Perfect Poster Child For Atheism…a Lunatic.