Tuesday, August 24, 2010

On Nietzsche’s Superman and Faulty Opinions


Richard (see Richard’s comments below),

I was once a great admirer of Nietzsche and read all the works of then published, but this was back when I was in my 20s and I am now half way through my 70s; so when I see a comment like yours I wonder whether I have forgotten what I read in some respect. Rather than reread Thus Spake Zarathusthra, I checked the Internet and the first comment I discovered matches my recollection:  "We see that an understanding of Nietzsche’s philosophy would not be complete without an understanding of the idea of the superman, the central and most crucial aspect about it. In eliminating the idea of God and the values attached to it in his system he is forced to give us a parallel substitute, that is, another god like figure from whom we may receive our new values in order to fill the void which is created." This is from https://www.msu.edu/user/bradle45/nietzsche.htm

I've discussed Nietzsche elsewhere from time to time, especially in regard to Francis Fukuyama's The End of History and the Last Man. While Fukuyama's "end of history" addressed Hegel, Marx and Kojeve, his "and the last man" addressed Nietzsche's fear for the future and his belief in the necessity of Superman. So I can't tell what your concern is -- unless you are quibbling about my use of the word "leader" for superman or ubermensch.

As to your second concern, that there is really no such thing as a "faulty opinion, let alone an extremely faulty opinion" I must also disagree, at least about the former expression. I mean by this an opinion based upon faulty evidence; which I believe is the common understanding.

Here is the legal use of the term: ". . . a mistaken or incomplete legal opinion may be grounds for a professional malpractice claim against the attorney, pursuant to which the attorney may be required to pay the claimant damages incurred as a result of relying on the faulty opinion." [from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opinion]

I think I understand what you mean, however. If someone were to voice an opinion about the future, then there would be no evidence about whether it was true or false, valid or invalid, accurate or faulty, but if someone were to voice an "opinion" that can be judged against facts or evidence (as in the legal definition) then it becomes like an argument. It can be valid or invalid, accurate or faulty.

In the Biblical reference you allude to, Jesus was referring to the Pharisees and the Sadducees, the "blind guides" of the people. They voiced their opinions and their opinions were widely accepted at the time. Were Jesus to follow your suggestion he would not be willing to touch those opinions. He would not be able to call them faulty, and yet he did -- not in those words of course, but that was the intent. Their opinions or beliefs were their own and in a certain sense genuine. Nevertheless Jesus criticized them as hypocrites and blind guides. Their opinions can therefore be termed faulty without violating the meaning of the Biblical text.



From: Richard
Subject: Re: Christopher Hill and thinking for oneself

To what extent [d]o we rely upon others to do our thinking for us? ...  [From Lawrence Helms's blog this past Monday under the title in the subject line]...

While today neither the Church nor the State imposes their authority upon us, we are not free of the authority of the Journalist. Many, as a recent discussion I was in suggested, would rather invoke a Journalist of the Left or Right than think the various issues they are concerned with through for themselves. While this phenomenon seems to go against the Leftist view that man is in a state of continuous "progress," it wouldn't surprise such philosophers as Nietzsche ... who argued that the common man would always need a "leader" to tell him what to think.

It would, for instance, be a sorry thing to invoke this as an example of Nietzsche's philosophy, "that the common man would always need a 'leader' to tell him what to think."

There is a Biblical concept that would probably occur to any Christian during a discussion of the Nuremberg trials, namely that we shall be held accountable for the teachers we set over us. The blind that follow the blind shall both end up in the ditch. But in this age where many, perhaps most, fear neither God nor man, it is interesting that they do not use their "freedom" to formulate their own philosophy, but instead rely upon Journalists and political hacks who use nothing but their extremely-faulty opinions to influence the ordinary descendants of those who lived during a time in which "The World Turned Upside Down."

"Extremely-faulty opinions": did you ever ask yourself why it makes no sense to call opinions "faulty"? That would be like criticizing someone for his false beliefs or her faulty imagination. Even the tacking-on of the qualifying "extremely" is a tacit acknowledgement of the faulty construction "faulty opinions," as if to say, "OK, all opinions are of course a little faulty, but these go beyond the acceptable extremes of off-base, out-of-line, wacko opinions, so don't go there; don't be persuaded by them." On the other hand, "faulty memory" seems to make perfect sense. Why is that?

I'll tell you why. It's ordinary language (philosophy).


University of Mainz

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