Nietzsche, decadence and nihilism

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PostFri Jun 18, 2010 8:21 pm » by Tertiusgaudens

Here you can read a fine post on what decadence is going to develop - a ground for unfolding nihilism in words of Nietzsche. ... ilism.html

Nihilism out of Decadence
At the end of section 38 in The Will to Power, Friedrich Nietzsche said, "The nihilistic movement is merely the expression of physiological decadence." In a historical context, the 20th century has clearly been the most decadent as yet, though I am sure the 21st century will surpass it many times over. On the whole, has not decadence been the source of our advancements in the last century?

Traditional morality valuations, particularly the Judeo-Christian values, posit judgments on what is decadent; and more so, that one should avoid that which leads to decadence—but is this wise? Nietzsche sees decadence as necessary as nihilism to its natural extent—an aspect of growth. He posits that what traditional valuations consider the causes of decadence, he considers the consequences—that to deny them is to deny humanity, which is the only true sin. However, Nietzsche does recognize how delicate decadence is as it may lead one towards that which promotes growth or that which diminishes or degenerates it. One may go as far as recognizing the distinction between healthy and unhealthy consequences of decadence, but to never forget that decadence itself is a natural element—part of our human existence. It is all the same with nihilism—as decadence leads to nihilism, we find that there are healthy forms of nihilism as well as unhealthy forms; or rather, what is useful and what is useless.

Starting on page 25 of *The Will to Power, Nietzsche writes:

40 (March-June 1888)

The concept of decadence.— Waste, decay, elimination need not be condemned: they are necessary consequences of life, of the growth of life. The phenomenon of decadence is as necessary as any increase and advance of life: one is in no position to abolish it. Reason demands, on the contrary, that we do justice to it.
It is a disgrace for all socialist systemizers that they suppose there could be circumstances—social combinations—in which vice, disease, prostitution, distress would no longer grow.— But that means condemning life.— A society is not free to remain young. And even at the height of its strength it has to form refuse and waste materials. The more energetically and boldly it advances, the richer it will be in failures and deformities, the closer to decline.— Age is not abolished by means of institutions. Neither is disease. Nor vice. [1]

41 (Winter-Fall 1888)

Basic insight regarding the nature of decadence: its supposed causes are its consequences.
This changes the whole perspective of moral problems. The whole moral struggle against vice, luxury, crime, even disease, appears a naiveté and superfluous: there is no "improvement" (against repentance). Decadence itself is nothing to be fought: it is absolutely necessary and belongs to every age and every people. What should be fought vigorously is the contagion of the healthy parts of the organism.
Is this being done? The opposite is done. Precisely that is attempted in the name of humanity.
—How are the supreme values held so far, related to this basic biological question? Philosophy, religion, morality, art, etc. (The cure: e.g., militarism, beginning with Napoleon who considered civilization his natural enemy.)

42 (March-June 1888)

First principle:
The supposed causes of degeneration are its consequences. But the supposed remedies of degeneration are also mere palliatives against some of its effects: the "cured" are merely one type of the degenerates.
Consequences of decadence: vice—the addiction to vice; sickness—sickliness; crime—criminality; celibacy—sterility; hystericism—weakness of the will; alcoholism; pessimism [2]; anarchism; libertinism (also of the spirit). The slanderers, underminers, doubters, destroyers.

43 (March-June 1888)

On the concept of decadence.
1. Skepticism is a consequence of decadence, as is libertinism of the spirit.
2. The corruption of morals is a consequence of decadence (weakness of the will, need for strong stimuli).
3. Attempted cures, psychological and moral, do not change the course of decadence, do not arrest it, are physiologically naught:
Insight into the great nullity of these presumptuous "reactions"; they are forms of narcotization against certain terrible consequences; they do not eliminate the morbid element; often they are heroic attempts to annul the man of decadence and to realize the minimum of his harmfulness.
4. Nihilism is no cause but merely the logical result of decadence.
5. The "good" and "bad" man are merely two types of decadence: in all basic phenomena they agree.
6. The social question is a consequence of decadence.
7. Sickness, especially those affecting nerves and head, are signs that the defensive strength of the strong natures is lacking; precisely this is suggested by irritability, so pleasure and displeasure become foreground problems.

44 (Spring-Summer 1888)

Most general types of decadence:
1. Believing one chooses remedies, one chooses in fact that which hastens exhaustion; Christianity is an example (to name the greatest example of such an aberration of the instincts); "progress" is another instance.—
2. One loses one's power of resistance against stimuli—and comes to be at the mercy of accidents: one coarsens and enlarges one's experiences tremendously—"depersonalization," disintegration of the will; example: one whole type of morality, the altruistic one which talks much of pity—and is distinguished by the weakness of the personality, so that it is sounded, too, and like an overstimulated string vibrates continually—an extreme irritability.—
3. One confuses cause and effect: one fails to understand decadence as a physiological condition and mistakes its consequences for the real cause of the indisposition; example: all of religious morality.— [3]
4. One longs for a condition in which one no longer suffers: life is actually experienced as the ground of ills; one esteems unconscious states, without feeling, (sleep, fainting) as incomparably more valuable than conscious ones; from this a method—

[1]: This could not be more true. No matter what measures are taken by an institution—government, organization, etc.—there are some things that will still persist.

[2]: So pessimism too is a consequence of decadence! Decadence is more so the root of nihilism.

[3]: See my posts on Nietzsche's "Four Great Errors" for more info on this.

*Nietzsche, F. The Will to Power. Translated by Walter Kaufmann and R.J. Hollingdale. Edited by Walter Kaufmann. New York: Random House, Inc., Vintage Books Edition, 1968.
Posted by Skeptic Dave
Hope is the thing with feathers...
Emily Dickinson

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PostFri Jun 18, 2010 9:11 pm » by Buffendoff

Then how do you explain the optimism/defiance of the Persian race!
Yes! we are a race, very beautyful one at times too, but there is dogs leftovers in any race.

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PostFri Jun 18, 2010 9:48 pm » by Tertiusgaudens

Western philosophy is mainly a pattern of thoughts which energed from thinking thus building systems.

What seems to be mighty and adorable and indeed helpful to understand has actually become a heavy burden.

Thoughts are always different from reality. Western philosophy has always thought people to look outside. There is actually no need of looking inside, the philosopher has to be "objective" and not involved in his flow of thoughts.

That is the sad part, and nietzsche saw this, suffered from it and finally lost his mind.

Maybe Persians had not that way of - let me cheerfully say "torture". I know what I am saying, for I followed that path of philosophy, it provides a lot of torture.

Nietzsche actually brings that western path to an end and pays with his pain for it.

He demands a new mankind - which is ready to look reality as it is by looking also into themselfes and transcending the realm of "only thoughts".

Later Heidegger wrote about that phenomenon in "The case of thinking".

Not without reason Nietzsche took Zarathustra as witness of a new mankind to be proclaimed coming, and Zarathustra came from Persia.
Hope is the thing with feathers...
Emily Dickinson

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