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SOME ASPECTS OF NIETZSCHE'S ETHICS / בחינות בתורת המידות של ניצ'שה

אפרים שפירא and EPHRAIM SHAPIRO
Iyyun: The Jerusalem Philosophical Quarterly / עיון: רבעון פילוסופי
כרך י"ב‎, חוברת א‎' (טבת תשכ"א), pp. 27-45
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/23303994
Page Count: 19
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SOME ASPECTS OF NIETZSCHE'S ETHICS / בחינות בתורת המידות של ניצ'שה
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Abstract

The purpose of this paper is to show that while Nietzsche's ethical teachings do indeed voice severe criticism of traditional ethics, still they cannot justifiably be regarded as an expression of thoroughgoing nihilism; for the central concept of revaluation upon which they rest as well as the basic attitude in which they are rooted, are essentially moral, though certainly not in the conventional sense. Nietzsche's attack on the key concepts of traditional ethics, such as 'justice', 'law', 'responsibility' etc., — is dictated by his conviction that the culture which gave rise to them was the product of a decadent species of man. Nietzsche regarded the culture of his day as radically unethical and its so-called morality as a tissue of lies and illusions, a realm of "Widernatur" diametrically opposed to the real world of Nature (which Nietzsche does not identify with the biological mode of existence). Instead of the decadent, impotent value-framework he attacks, Nietzsche proposes a new set of ethical values based upon the supreme value of truthfulness (in keeping with truth as Nietzsche conceived of it), and upon the active attack on all decadent phenomena. This critique of traditional morality as a tissue of lies and illusions rests upon the metaphysical distinction between the real world of Nature and the artificial world of illusions spun by man as a "social animal". Challenging the classical distinction between physis and nomoi, Nietzsche denied both the effectivity and the priority of the latter and scoffed at the optimistic belief of his age in "progress" towards the ultimate conquest of man's primal nature. The bloody history of the human race indicates that it is man's inner nature which governs his destiny and not his fabricated nature as a "social being". The artificial distinction between this world and another, ideal world, between body and soul, is but a rubber-stamped reflection of the collective failure and decadence of the human race. Alone among all other species, the human race suffers, since time immemorial, from a conflict between the social mode of its existence and the true nature of its individual members, a conflict which is only aggravated by man's power of reflection upon past and future. The specific trait differentiating man from all other creatures, to wit — his fully self-conscious power of changing the world, is a doubleedged sword, revealing to man both his frailty as a finite and mutable creature, and his power as a potential destroyer and creator. It is to this distinguishing mark of human Nature that Nietzsche refers when he asserts that the sole way to health is the way to Nature. Hence there is at most a nominal similarity between Nietzsche's call for a return to nature and the Romantic nostalgia of a Rousseau or a Goethe. The sole power capable of overcoming man's antagonism with Nature is the power of self-realisation through self-creation (a notion the full elucidation of which demands an examination which cannot be undertaken within this framework of Nietzsche's metaphysics and the key notions around which it revolves, i. e. the will to power, the superman, Dionysus, amor fati and eternal recurrence). Once life as perpetual flux is grasped in its eternal contingency, once the individual grasps his own finitude and solitude, the first, intellectual or reflective step has been taken towards self-realisation. Only those strong enough to make the turn and recognise the stark reality of a Heraclitian world, only those fit to survive because endowed by Nature with "sterner stuff", can arrive at a true picture of man, of his place in the cosmos, and of the only social structure conducive to health and to harmony with the species or nature. A healthy society can be built only by strong individuals whose selfassertion might negate conventions but thereby affirms and is in keeping with the species. Only after having stripped away all external trapplings of society and state and affirming one's essential Nature, can one adopt a healthy, nonchalant approach to given, external factors, to fate, — an approach Nietzsche calls "amor fati". It is not in the external socio-political world, but only within that self-realization, as an agressive, dynamic process can be achieved; a process outwardly manifest in an ever increasing disengagement from the web of interdependence characteristic of a decadent society. The power won through self-realisation is neither biological nor political. It is the power of inner freedom. Of all other human types, the artist is the fittest for the arduous undertaking of self-realisation. Since he is by nature a solitary being whose solitude stems not from misery but from aloofness born of his power, given him by Nature, of destroying old forms and creating new ones, of achieving harmony with and a place in the Heraclitian world, of asserting his freedom to determine his own truth, law, and value. By an artist Nietzsche does not mean an artist by profession but an artist in the wider sense of self. creator, as a man who by self-conquest becomes his own work of artThus to Nietzsche, the corner-stone of true morality is the incessant struggle to overcome one's dependence upon external factors, to attain self-sufficiency and to win the faith that one's existence is justified by one's own nature once its harmony with Nature as a whole is achieved.

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