20.34: Notes on Nietzsche

ℹ️ This is not a newsletter, nor is it a weekly update one can expect to be delivered every Sunday. These are just random thoughts or ideas I come across and pin down during the week.

Notes on Nietzsche’s thoughts and ideas collected from the episodes 90 to 94 of the Philosophize This! podcast.

Historically, to cope with our painful reality we’ve manufactured and bought into the idea of an ideal vs. real-world duality.

  • The platonic view of the world of forms, where there is the idea of a “perfect triangle”; and what we actually get in the world, imperfect representations of such a triangle.
  • The New Testament’s beliefs about the flesh, where we suffer and endure; and heaven, where we’ll eventually end up if we behave in the former.

Given this duality, one can’t empirically refute God. Nietzsche goes beyond these assumptions and proclaims that “God is dead”. His way to bring up the reasons why people had to invent these stories to deal with this void, unfortunate reality.

Christianity has convinced us that passivity and complacency are good values to live by. It reinforces the idea that we must behave in this impermanent world to buy ourselves a ticket for eternity. Turning our natural impulses and urges into evil.

For example, if used correctly, envy can be positive and become a healthy driver. It can be taken as guidance to direct us where we want to be. On top of that, it is very personalized and can teach a lot about who we are.

Negative emotional states are opportunities to learn and grow as individuals.

Nietzsche is angry we’ve become a heard.

Awaiting for a superior entity to tell us what to do and how to act, we rely on narcotics of all kinds to borrow happiness from our tomorrows.

For example, he points at alcohol. Which assesses through a cost-benefit analysis to conclude that its only “benefit” is that it briefly solves all of our problems.

The first part ☝️ has been all about society telling us what we shouldn’t do. Now we turn the attention to what we should do. A good place to start is to ask ourselves — why we do the things we do.

  • An Aristotelian approach: we pursue what makes us happy. However, why we keep engaging with things that make us unhappy?
  • A Schopenhauer approach would instead state that we ultimately pursue a will to live, to survival. Jealousy, guilt… are primal instincts and inherited mechanisms to keep ourselves alive. However, why we keep engaging in risky activities that could potentially kill us?

Nietzsche argues that what drives us is the will to power: becoming who we truly are, self-expression, not being slaved.

The will to power is one of the most misunderstood concepts of Nietzsche’s philosophy. Nietzsche is not a nihilist. His entire body of work is a refutation of nihilism, a recipe to make our life as meaningful as possible.

People who achieve this will to power can self-overcome societal preconceptions and express themselves fully. However difficult, because our culture is full of ideas that enslave us (see part one ☝️).

Here comes the tricky part: navigating a Universe where all agents are exerting their will to power, we’ll bump into a conflict between one another.

In other words, bad things will happen to you because we don’t have total control over the external world.

The default answer to this problem has always been: stay away from the things that are not in our control, instead, focus on the things we control, our own mind. The way to get better at it is to strengthen our minds. The ultimate goal is to arrive at a Sage state where you have removed yourself from all the material attachments.

Yet this is not how life works. Because we can’t fully detach from the external world, since we live in it.

We ought to exert our will to power: work tirelessly, rise above our circumstances, become as powerful as we can, to achieve as much control of our own fate.

🖇️ Related to the circle of influence from Stephen Covey’s habits.

Instead of meditating the evil away, why not embrace it? In a world where everybody takes the path of least resistance; where we keep hearing about all the things people want to do, but never even start; why don’t they do it? Because of fear and laziness. Because the world is full of mediocre people, who don’t take action and never try-hard.

⚡ For those who want true fulfillment and happiness out of life, Nietzsche suggests we take calculated risks, live dangerously, and embrace the pain. Hardship and pain are the only paths to personal growth.

🖇️ Related to this quote from Can’t Hurt Me:

Make your resolution to exceed God’s expectations. Make God “write more lines” on the book about what we could have been. Surprise God to the point where s/he says “I didn’t see that coming, I didn’t even think he was capable of that”.

Instead of running away from pain, instead of trying to manufacture the most comfortable life, instead, embrace pain — an opportunity to become the best person we can possibly be.

According to Nietzsche, everything in this world can be ultimately categorized as being good or evil. The person who first articulated this idea of good vs. evil was Zoroaster.

Zoroaster lived in the mountains and, at the age of 30, descended to a town called the Motley Cow to teach their citizens about the Übermensch. However, people laughed at him.

Life is a constant struggle towards a state of being he calls the Übermensch. If you keep progressing as a human being, you’ll cycle through three stages:

  • Camel: we’re all born camels, and 99.99% of people will remain camels. This camel is a metaphor that is meant to represent the societal weights we carry around. People discussed in the first part — not living beyond what they’ve been told to do. Camels do not ask themselves “why am I doing this” or “what I want to do”. Instead, they follow conventional wisdom or whatever everybody else does.
  • Lion: lives in a transitional stage of self-awareness. The Lion acknowledges some of these “weights” that have been imposed, but still has a long way to go. The Lion has to recognize all these traditions and respect them for what they are. It can ultimately decide to stick to it, but now he does it because of an inner will.
  • Child: after transitioning from this passive-nihilism state of the Lion, where we say “no” to everything, we move into the Child by becoming the best version of ourselves, the person that we truly want to be. We are all born with a seed inside of us. This seed holds our potential. It is our job to nurture it, unlock it.

Our higher self speaks demandingly.

To find your goals in life, ask yourself what you’ve truly loved up until this point in your life.

First published on August 23, 2020