December 19, 2012

About Nietzsche, and more updates also about Theo van Gogh

1. About Nietzsche
2. More updates also about Theo van Gogh
About ME/CFS


Today, recuperating from writing about Bob Dylan and about the exemplary French philosophers Sartre and De Beauvoir, which I did add some links to and remove some typos from, there's only a brief Nederlog, this time about Nietzsche and about updates of my site.

1. About Nietzsche

I am currently reading the last book of Nietzsche - as his books appear in the so called Schlechta edition, which dates back to the previous century, and was the standard edition for a while then, though in fact it is neither complete nor free from errors - that I had not read before, namely Morgenröte (translated as Daybreak: Reflections on Moral Prejudices, or simply as Dawn).

And yes, I read German, and one good reason to read Nietzsche, especially in German, is that he was a great writer. In fact, here is my main reason to write about him today: while trying to find some background materials on
Morgenröte I found the following site:
that seems to have his complete works and letters on line, in what seem to be good html versions, presently covering more than 9000 pages (the site claims).

I think that is a very good idea, and indeed his texts must to be free from copyright and ought to be freely available on line for anyone - who reads German - to check out. As I said, one good reason for doing so is that, at the very least,  he was the author of great German prose and poetry.

Beyond that, it's a bit difficult to say - and here is my entry on him in my Philosophical Dictionary that explains why:
Nietzsche, Friedrich: Prussian and later stateless philosopher, 1844-1900. A linguist by profession, with a great gift for language and a brilliant mind, he had throughout his life bad health, and finally died completely insane, probably because of tertiary syphilis, though this is not certain.

He wrote more than ten books and was a master of German prose. One can distinguish several phases or approaches in his books, all of which are well-written but some of which are obscure nevertheless. In any case, he was aristocratic, pessimistic and mostly materialistic, though his attitude to science and rationality differed considerably in his different phases and books.

He has been widely influential in artistic circles, if only because he brilliantly expresses a young man's cynicism about the world in combination with personal high aspirations, and also as one of the main inspirators of Adolf Hitler and national socialism, though it is very probable that Nietzsche would have despised Hitler, and it is certain that Nietzsche was neither an antisemite nor a German nationalist nor a socialist in any sense.

A sympathetic reading of him tends to see him as an aristocratic individualist of great gifts, unfortunately side-tracked and finally upset by serious bad health; a less sympathetic reading sees him as a disturbed personality of great linguistic gifts who through his cravings for personal superiority, aristocracy and a master-race laid, albeit unwittingly, the foundations for fascism and national socialism.

What is certain in any case, however one tries to understand him, is that almost all of his followers have not understood him, but only used such of his brilliancies as fitted their own ends.

One of his phrases and ideals that appealed to Hitler and national socialists was the notion of a Herrenmoral: A morality for leaders of the master race, of whom Nietzsche liked to think that the world exists mostly for their purposes, and that, being naturally superior, they had, thereby and therefore, the right, and possibly the duty, to subvert and use everybody else for their - superior, enlightened - ends. (It should be clear that, however one thinks about the distribution of talents, this Nietzschean opinion also seems a prime example of Adlerian psychological compensation for weakness and inferiority, and that it was this aspect that, unwittingly, grabbed Hitler and other national socialists, who strongly craved superiority.)

The general problem with Nietzsche as a philosopher is that he was very good at writing philosophical and psychological aphorisms, but no good at all at writing systematic rational philosophical expositions of his ideas.

Another problem is that his works have not been fully published (and he became insane aged 44) and that his sister has falsified some of these to satisfy her own antisemitism. His last unpublished work, "The Will to Power", has been edited and published by Schlechta, but is supposed to be incomplete.

If Seneca was right that there is no genius without a tincture of madness, Nietzsche is a good example of a mad philosophical genius, whose genius was mostly linguistic: A great gift for spectacular phrasing, but a far lesser gift for systematic rational thinking and exposition.

I think Nietzsche has been mostly misunderstood and abused, the last - for example - by the Nazis, by the postmodernists, and by the existentialists, but then I would agree that it is very easy to misunderstand him, firstly, because he never gave a systematic exposition of what he thought and why he came to such conclusions as he did, for much of his writing is aphoristic, and indeed he collapsed into utter madness aged 44; secondly, because he seems to have changed his mind quite radically, several times, for which reason there are, at least, an early, middle and late Nietzsche; and thirdly, because he had very few readers who were as intelligent as he was, and very many readers who were bowled over by his verbal brilliancies. [1]

As it happens, I like him more than not: He wrote very well; he had considerable courage; he meant well, in a rather misguided and romantic way [2]; he saw and formulated quite a few failings of ordinary men and of ordinary academics and intellectuals very well; and he was quite mistaken about rather a lot, if indeed with much better intentions than those who abused his works for their own ends, such as the Nazis and postmodernists.

In case you want to read excellent German, and want your own prejudices shaken up, the above link should be quite helpful.

2. More updates

There are and will be more updates, since I am trying to get my site in somewhat better shape, but for the moment it is difficult to say more, except that I have reformatted the index for 2004, of what then was called "Nedernieuws", that was  all in Dutch, and all about Dutch things and events.

Dutchmen might be interested in my take on the murder of Theo van Gogh, whom I have known, that happened in 2004, with a series of files collected and linked here:
This is in Dutch, and lists 12 series - that is: different texts written at different dates about one topic - that I wrote in 2004, the longest being about Theo van Gogh, who would have been pleased to see his name in one text in which Nietzsche also gets mentioned.

As to mentioning: I find Theo van Gogh not often mentioned in Holland, since he was murdered and buried, in 2004. This does not amaze me, because he was too much of an original and too much of an individualist to please most or many  Dutchmen, and also because he was very controversial in quite a few ways, and because he liked offending people, and did so with gusto.

In case you're interested and read Dutch, here is an interview I made with him, in two parts
Also, I was pleased to see that his website is still being maintained, and seems to be mostly as it was in 2004, when he was murdered:
It may not be Politically Correct (<-English) and I may disagree (<-Dutch) but he was an original with individual courage, and he wrote well.
[1] To prevent being bowled over, it definitely helps to know more about philosophy than Nietzsche offers in his book about the subject. One good source, also very well written, and with a chapter on Nietzsche that is quite critical (and not quite fair, according to some), is Bertrand Russell's "History of Western Philosophy".
[2] To illustrate, from the lemma on
Nietzsche in Wikipedia:
Koselitz was one of the very few friends Nietzsche allowed to criticize him. In responding most enthusiastically to Zarathustra, Koselitz did feel it necessary to point out that what were described as "superfluous" people were in fact quite necessary. He went on to list the number of people Epicurus, for example, had to rely on—even with his simple diet of goat cheese.

About ME/CFS
(that I prefer to call M.E.: The "/CFS" is added to facilitate search machines) which is a disease I have since 1.1.1979:
1. Anthony Komarof

Ten discoveries about the biology of CFS(pdf)

3. Hillary Johnson

The Why  (currently not available)

4. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2003)
5. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2011)
6. Eleanor Stein

Clinical Guidelines for Psychiatrists (pdf)

7. William Clifford The Ethics of Belief
8. Malcolm Hooper Magical Medicine (pdf)
Maarten Maartensz
Resources about ME/CFS
(more resources, by many)

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