Nietzsche and others

Mike asked about my view regarding Nz’s view toward other people. (Or “the Other” as some people like to say, but I’m not sure what that means if it doesn’t means “other people”). So here goes.

Biographically, Nz wasn’t always a loner. He had a small circle of friends in high school, joined a fraternity in college (and even fought a duel!), went out drinking and carousing, wrote many letters to friends, proposed marriage once or twice, probably visited brothels. He proposed living with friends at various points and forming elite philosophical communities, and he always welcomed visits and made many friends in his travels. But, for all that, he was a lonely guy. He really wanted a second self, a comrade to make his journey with him. But his journey was so intense that no one else wanted to dedicate their lives to it. His expectations were too high, I think, and they certainly were never met.  One of his hardest struggles was his attempt to overcome his need for others and be content in solitude.

I think this means that his loneliness did exert a strong pull over his philosophy. He writes often of the free spirits, which are basically his imaginary playmates, or the friends he wished he had. He frequently also writes of the friendship among overmen or higher men or whatnot, and it is clear he thinks that is a necessary and wonderful thing. And, holy smokes, did he have things to say about women. But it is a case of “presence by absence,” or his concern for other people showing by his relative loneliness. He really needed other people, that’s clear, since if they weren’t available, he went ahead and created them for himself!

I think I’m probably not seeing the larger significance of “the question of the Other,” so you’ll have to enlighten me.

About Huenemann

Curious about the ways humans use their minds and hearts to distract themselves from the meaninglessness of life.
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4 Responses to Nietzsche and others

  1. Mike says:

    I have a guess that he’s deliberately trying to keep away ‘lesser spirits’ and that that’s the ‘mask’. He seems to deeply offend the exact right sort — the falsely pious (also the group that understands him least). He’s a proponent of “tough love” (to degrade something he articulates better).

    There are occurrences of such a delicate nature that one does well to cover them up with some rudeness to conceal them; there are actions of love and extravagant generosity after which nothing is more advisable than to take a stick and give an eyewitness a sound thrashing: that would muddle his memory.

    I could imagine that a human being who had to guard something precious and vulnerable might roll through life, rude and round as an old green wine cask with heavy hoops: the refinement of his shame would want it that way.

    BGE part 2 section 40

    I’m still having some trouble parsing that section.

    In any case, I consider him a good friend, maybe one of the best (because he doesn’t put up with much crap and puts some effort into improving me) and that’s enough for me on that question.


  2. petersonion says:

    Nietzsche was no elitist, I recall a passage in I think Ecce Homo where he talks about visiting old peasant women around Turin who used to love his visits and save for him “their best grapes”.

    Nevertheless, I imagine that like all lonely intellectuals his best friends were Spinoza, Sophocles, Goethe and so on.


  3. Huenemann says:

    He mentions this in Ecce Homo, and also in a letter in Christmas, 1888, a couple of weeks before his collapse. It’s one of the letters showing some early signs of insanity. He writes that everyone in Turin is fascinated with him and can’t take their eyes off him. But way before that, he liked many “ordinary” people.


  4. Mike says:

    I think Nietzsche recognized and valued honest modes of behavior in different types of man. But to say he was “no elitist” seems like a stretch to me. Consider this quote from BGE Part II Section 26 (bold emphasis mine) —

    The long and serious study of the average man, and consequently much disguise, self-overcoming, familiarity, and bad contact (all contact is bad contact except with one’s equals) — this constitutes a necessary part of the life-history of every philosopher, perhaps the most disagreeable, odious, and disappointing part. If he is fortunate, however, as a favorite child of knowledge should be, he will encouter suitable shortcuts and helps for his task; I mean so-called cynics, those who simply recognize the animal, the commonplace, and “the rule” in themselves

    Cynicism is the only form in which base souls approach honesty; and the higher man must listen closely to every coarse or subtle cynicism


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