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Friedrich Nietzsche

  1. Sep 14, 2010 #1
    Do you guys think Friedrich Nietzsche was pretentious? Somebody I was talking with the other day brought this up, I've only read "Beyond Good and Evil" and that was a while ago, could someone refresh my memory?
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 18, 2010 #2
    Hmm... I wouldn't say he was a pretentious person. I mean, he knew a lot about the ancient Greek philosophy, he was even interested in oriental philosophy (hence Thus Spoke Zarathustra). And at that time, talking about nihilism and using the idea of Übermensch was a big deal. He was provocative, indeed, but he didn't do it because he was trying to impress anyone, he did it because things needed to be said. He described his generation and then talked about an ideal Übermensch who can go beyond the morality of that time. He tried to change the world to a better place.

    I remember in a preface of his that I read (can't remember, maybe it was in 'the antichrist' or 'twilight of the idols') where he said something to the reader like 'this book has to be read with intelligence, otherwise you will not be able to understand fully my concepts blah, blah' but oh well... It was just an introduction, you cannot blame him for that, of course he wanted his book to be read with intelligence and thoughtfulness; just like any other philosopher would.
  4. Sep 18, 2010 #3
    It sounds like he didn't take intelligence for granted in his readers. That sounds like the opposite of pretentious to me.
  5. Sep 19, 2010 #4
    Well, exactly, for me he didn't appear to be a pretentious man; but I gave that example because it was probably the time it seemed to me that he was kind of 'showy', pretending to say that his work was above everyone's mind [/exaggeration], but again I didn't take much attention to this remark and was able to go over his work as everyone putting effort reading it would. So yeah, I agree with you brainstorm.
  6. Sep 19, 2010 #5
    Superiority/inferiority always seems to get very convoluted in practice. I think, for example, that Nazi ideology used the language of ubermenschen/undermenschen to talk about racial hierarchy with Jews being deemed inferior yet Jews were also seen as being a self-aggrandizing elite. I think what happens is that whenever people want to use social hierarchy ideologies to dominate others, they utilize both accusations of self-superiority AND designation of inferiority. You can see the same ideological tactics in the way anti-Liberalism was used in the last decade or so. Liberals have been regarded both as self-superior elites and inherently weak and inferior because of their "bleeding hearts," etc. I believe you could also find similar tactics in anti-Americanism or anti-Islam. It's just part of a general arsenal of ideological tactics for undermining a hated social identity in every possible way.
  7. Sep 19, 2010 #6
    To me it does sound pretentious, to imply that one's own thought is so much more intelligent than one's audience's (and to tactlessly dump the onus onto audience, of making the communication succeed or fail). But only one such line (without even context) isn't enough to judge someone on.

    For someone less well aquainted with Nietzsche, what was the relevence of that post?
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2010
  8. Sep 19, 2010 #7
    Really, my familiarity with Nietchean ideas comes more through Foucault, but I think that Nietzche preferred active expressions of power over passive ones. So I would expect that he would dislike people who write intelligent philosophy but play down their will to intellectual power by pretending that they didn't work and think very hard to come up with what they are writing. So, I think Nietzche would find it more pretentious for a philosopher to play down their intelligence in this way than to simply acknowledge their own will to power through striving for intelligent ideas and intelligent people to get them. That is, after all, a fact about any philosopher's work so why should they pretend (pretentiously) that it's not?
  9. Sep 23, 2010 #8
    "Whomever despises himself nonetheless respects himself as one who despises"

    It's the most profound quote I've heard by anyone living or dead and one of the best takes on humility I can think of.

    With the precision of introspection to even concieve of that I find it difficult to think of him as pretentious.
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2010
  10. Sep 23, 2010 #9
    He may come across as harsh, but I never saw him as pretentious. His writings urge a level of caution so many times that he seems keenly aware of his own fallibility and being subject to human nature. I think the concept of pretension is confused with his belief that humans are capable of more, but not that he was somehow prophetic...

    This is the same man who cautioned us to be careful in doing battle with monsters and gazing into the abyss... he seemed to be very aware that whatever we examine or hate can overwhelm us without our knowing it; That's almost conservative.
  11. Sep 23, 2010 #10
    Are you interpreting this is meaning that the person who despises himself is not humble in his belief about his own judgment?

    What's the point in philosophizing about humility anyway since the moment you name it as a virtue, it becomes an ego-trip for the humble person to be validated in their humility?

    I would guess Nietzche's would view humility in terms of will-to-power. I.e. Humility as a means of rising to power in social life. This is, after all, why false-humility is so popular, no?
  12. Sep 23, 2010 #11
    When you despise yourself you still see yourself as important enough to value your own opinion of self-criticism.

    This gives a redeeming value to self criticism in the sense that is it not purely destructive to self worth.

    A person locked into self criticism and defeatism has a way out towards appreciating themselves in recognizing the mechanism.

    Humility dissipates when a person boasts their own accomplishment of it to someone else (obviously) but that does not mean that the concept can't be spoken about. I don't see humility as a "virtue"; I see it as having the correct perspective. That is my personal bias and I don't know if Neitzche felt that way at all. A person approaching themself with humility is anything but arrogant.
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2010
  13. Sep 23, 2010 #12


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    Look into the dominant German philosophy before him called "Absolute Idealism" and you'll see exactly what Nietzsche was up against and just how unpretentious he really was.
  14. Sep 23, 2010 #13
    Yep, philosophy requires history to put it in proper context, and as harsh as he sometimes comes across, Nietzsche was practically a kitten with a belief in the individual ability to advance. When compared to notions of philosopher kings, he seems even more mellow!
  15. Sep 24, 2010 #14
    "When stepped on, a worm doubles up. That is clever. In that way he lessens the probability of being stepped on again. In the language of morality: humility."
    Nietzsche - Twilight of the Idols

    And I'm not sure Nietzsche equated 'clever' with good, in this particular instance.
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