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Wednesday, July 9, 2008

a note in the margin

I was flipping through my Portable Nietzsche this morning and noticed this quote along with a note in the margin.
It is a self-deception on the part of philosophers and moralists if they believe that they are extricating themselves from decadence when they merely wage war against it. Extrication lies beyond their strength: what they choose as a means, as salvation, is itself but another expression of decadence; they change its expression, but they do not get rid of decadence itself.

Nietzsche -> Twilight of the Idols "The Problem of Socrates" #11
My note was--

Similar to "Being free of possessions is not to be without them but to be free of their power over you. They may have power whether you own them or not."

I'm not sure who I was quoting there. Are these really similar?


Anonymous said...

Great Nz quote. I guess as long as you spend your time railing against the appointed enemy or misperceived problem, then they are obviously not free (extricated or removed) from the situation.

I think your relation about being free of possessions is applicable, but in both cases it is not enough to have a perceptual shift in regarding the war. I think one must also actively move beyond.

For example, I am not extricated from the decadence in my dependent (reliant) relationship to material possessions offered by technology. Understanding that they are mere possessions and do not own me, for I could lose them at any time, is not complete. I am still dependent on them, I still rely on them, and I would experience substantial loss with the removal of my computer, car, and refrigerator. The problem or situation to be extricated from, in perceptual and physical battles with physical opponents, still exists, if not physically removed from existence or at least perceptually removed from concern. But, the Physical presence alone may force the perceptual concern. As in the tech example, unless I have physically become independent of the use and possession of such technology, I will never be extricated from the battle of freedom from reliance. I supposed one could physically free themselves this way, and come back to use technology as a tool, but not as crutch, perceptually speaking, and consider himself free of possessions, and extricated from the battle of reliance.

Say that a Christian wages war on "naughty" language. Nz is right on, that war is hell, or at least one is grappling with what they perceive as decadence. As long as they truly fight it (active in mind and actions), they will never overcome it. (The abyss will stare back into them). It would seem that they have to come to term with linguistics, and accept beauty in relationship between "naughty" language and all other words and phrases.

The problem with actually winning the war, is that of the perceptual realm. Battle Scars. You will only "win" the war against naughty words if they are destroyed, removed, and no longer used. But they will exist in the mind of he who is concerned about such types of words. He will always know of these words, because he has learned his enemy all too well in order to defeat it. What he may have missed is that the words remain naughty perceptually within himself because he granted them the power to offend through reaction and revulsion.

There is also the predicament of relativity. One may argue that if those words no longer exist, the expression behind the origins of the words in human language in action would create or apply new naughty uses for previously non-naughty words. Presumably, one must perceptually get beyond good and evil here to extricate themselves from words that are naughty. (In this case, unlike the technological one, the words would still exist, but would no longer be naughty words...effectively and as far as I know.)

Now this isn't a 1+1=2 argument layout, but I think it has some merit. I agree with you that there is a relationship to his quote and your note.

Is railing on anything or fighting any philosophical or moral battle decadent? Is a War on Drugs decadent only if you "merely wage war against it" as Nz says? Is it no longer decadent if you actually bury, burn, or flush those drugs? I guess I need more context.

Mike said...

Here's more of that quote for some Nietzschean clarity.

"Socrates was a misunderstanding; the whole improvement-morality, including the Christian, was a misunderstanding. The most blinding daylight; rationality at any price; life, bright, cold, cautious, conscious, without instinct, in opposition to instincts--all this too was a mere disease, another disease, and by no means a return to "virtue," to "health," to happiness. To have to fight the instincts--that is the formula of decadence: as long as life is ascending, happiness equals instinct."

But the initial quote itself is more appealing to me. I think in some sense you can be detached from the conceptual war and perhaps diverted. You can't wage war against it but you can just focus on something other than it (or its opposite). In another way you can continue the conceptual war without continuing your attachment to it. I think these are more Stoic sentiments and less Nietzschean. Of course my prescription in any case is going to be more oriented around external reinforcers or change of environment than any sort of conceptual games.

Change of attitude is the key to everything but we're fooling ourselves if we think we'll get that done with logic and argumentation. That doesn't mean logic and argumentation are worthless. So I'm with Seneca, "we must attack the passions by brute force and not by logic; that the enemy's line must be turned by a strong attack and not by pinpricks; for vices have to be crushed rather than picked at. Still, in order that the people concerned be censured for their own individual faults, they must be taught and not just given up for lost." With some Nietzschean caveats that allow the passions their due.

To be the artists of our lives we'll use every tool at our disposal and when we need substantive work on ourselves, we'll use substantive tools.