Postmodernism, Part 34: Tarantulas

What is postmodernism? Is it a problem?  The following continues a series of posts explaining postmodernism.  It is based on the excellent Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault, by Prof. Stephen Hicks.  (Additional support includes Friedrich Nietzsche’s Will to PowerBeyond Good and Evil, and Thus Spake Zarathustra.)

Erstwhile

Enlightenment and Darkness

Marxist postmodernism seeks to overthrow modernism (reason, individualism, liberal democracy, free markets).  Postmodernism is based on nihilism and radical left politics.

Rousseau’s Revolutionary Politics

Postmodern political philosophy is related to Rousseau, whose totalitarian collectivism inflamed the French Revolution and Reign of Terror, leading to the rise of Napoleon and his conquest of Germany.

Right Collectivism

Right Collectivism gave Rousseau a German makeover, adding hero worship, state worship, German supremacy, and the dialectic.

Left Collectivism

Left Collectivism fused German Counter-Enlightenment ideas with romanticism: passion, revolution, and disgust ().  Disgusted, Marx and Engels concocted “scientific socialism” and published the Communist Manifesto.

Revolutionary Disappointment

The Revolutions of 1848 frustrated Marx and Engels.  The French Second Republic’s socialist experiments flopped, triggering failed leftist uprisings.  German Communism and Italian unification failed.  Bismarck united northern Germany .

Red Star Rising

The Franco-Prussian War united victorious Germany, with defeated France dividing in civil war.  Marx exploited the crushed Paris Commune.  The First International split, with Bakunin railing against Marx’s authoritarianism, warning of dictatorship and slavery.

In his inimitable way, Friedrich Nietzsche also warned against the looming Communist catastrophe.

Nietzsche’s Warning

Post-Christian Nihilism

nietzsche-friedrich“The time is coming when we shall have to pay for having been Christians for two thousand years,” Nietzsche warned in Will to Power, “We are hurling ourselves headlong into the opposite … There is a seeking after a sort of earthly solution of the problem of life, but in the same sense [as Heaven] … the final triumph of truth, love, justice (socialism: ‘equality of persons’) … an attempt to hold fast to the moral ideal … to hold fast to a ‘Beyond'” Socialism, he wrote, “is an attempt to read the phenomena of life in such a way as to arrive at the divine guidance of old, with its powers of rewarding, punishing, educating … the victory of the good and the annihilation of the evil … as a duty”.

Socialism is a reaction to modern nihilism, Nietzsche argued. “The [modern] world has not the value which we believed it to have,” he wrote,  where without faith, we can no longer “deceive ourselves and chant the old story”.  So, we must “seek for new values [and] … get behind the naïveté of our ideals“.  These new values make it “so that life has a curse upon it”, he observed, deifying “the community” and vilifying human differences that “cleave gulfs and build barriers “.

Socialist Utopians

Nietzsche scorned socialist utopians.  “It is disgraceful on the part of socialist-theorists to argue that circumstances and social combinations could be devised which would put an end to all vice, illness, crime, prostitution, and poverty,” he argued. “‘Utopia,’ the ‘ideal man,'”, he scoffed, are but “subordination to the propaganda of social ideas, charlatanism” – the ideas of Rousseau.

“Rousseau is a symptom of self-contempt and of inflamed vanity,” Nietzsche argued. Rousseau was “preposterous … [in] his shameless contempt for everything that was not himself”.  He “moralizes and seeks the cause of his own misery after the style of a revengeful man”.

Revolution, Tyranny, and War

Rousseau incited the “insurrectional desires” of “the oppressed” by tossing around words like “unjust” and “cruel”, Nietzsche claimed.  Rousseau elevated “the revengefulness of the masses … to the position of justice”.

Lo, this is the tarantula’s den! Wouldst thou see the tarantula itself? Here hangeth its web: touch this, so that it may tremble.

There cometh the tarantula willingly: Welcome, tarantula! Black on thy back is thy triangle and symbol; and I know also what is in thy soul.

Revenge is in thy soul: wherever thou bitest, there ariseth black scab; with revenge, thy poison maketh the soul giddy!

Thus do I speak unto you in parable, ye who make the soul giddy, ye preachers of EQUALITY! Tarantulas are ye unto me, and secretly revengeful ones!

But I will soon bring your hiding-places to the light: therefore do I laugh in your face my laughter of the height.

Therefore do I tear at your web, that your rage may lure you out of your den of lies, and that your revenge may leap forth from behind your word “justice.”

– Thus Spake Zarathustra, XXIX. The Tarantulas.

Socialism is “the tyranny of the meanest and most brainless … the envious” scoffed Nietzsche.  This is “the zenith … the logical conclusion of ‘modern ideas’ and their latent anarchy”.  Socialism “is on the whole a hopelessly bitter affair,” he wrote, where “the poisonous and desperate faces of present-day socialists [betray] … the childish lamb-like happiness of their hopes and desires”.

“Nevertheless, in many places in Europe, there may be violent hand-to-hand struggles and [eruptions] on their account”  Nietzsche continued, “the coming century is likely to be convulsed in more than one spot, and the Paris Commune … will seem to have been but a slight indigestion compared with what is to come.”  The twentieth century, he warned, would be plagued with wars.

Life and Death

Socialism is but a poorly concealed “will to the denial of life”,  Nietzsche cautioned.  “One must desire more [property] than one has in order to become more,” he said, “this is the teaching which life itself preaches to all living things”, the morality of Growth and Development – “to have and to wish to have more”.

Socialism is hostile to all individual rights, Nietzsche reasoned in Beyond Good and Evil.  Socialist “fraternity-visionaries” claim to want a “free society” but have an “instinctive hostility to every form of society other than that of the … herd.”  Their “tenacious opposition to every special claim, every special right and privilege … [is] ultimately opposition to EVERY right, for when all are equal, no one needs ‘rights’ any longer.”

“I even wish a few experiments might be made to show that in a socialistic society, life denies itself,”  Nietzsche mused in Will to Power, “The earth is big enough and man is still unexhausted enough for a practical lesson of this sort … even if it were accomplished only by a vast expenditure of lives—to seem worth while to me.”

Commentary

Nietzsche would not live to see the vast expenditure of lives under socialist experiments.  Many then and now would turn a blind eye to the horrors.  Why?

“Vengeance will we use, and insult, against all who are not like us”—thus do the tarantula-hearts pledge themselves.

“And ‘Will to Equality’—that itself shall henceforth be the name of virtue; and against all that hath power will we raise an outcry!”

Ye preachers of equality, the tyrant-frenzy of impotence crieth thus in you for “equality”: your most secret tyrant-longings disguise themselves thus in virtue-words!

Fretted conceit and suppressed envy—perhaps your fathers’ conceit and envy: in you break they forth as flame and frenzy of vengeance.

What the father hath hid cometh out in the son; and oft have I found in the son the father’s revealed secret.

Inspired ones they resemble: but it is not the heart that inspireth them—but vengeance. And when they become subtle and cold, it is not spirit, but envy, that maketh them so.

Their jealousy leadeth them also into thinkers’ paths; and this is the sign of their jealousy—they always go too far: so that their fatigue hath at last to go to sleep on the snow.

In all their lamentations soundeth vengeance, in all their eulogies is maleficence; and being judge seemeth to them bliss.

But thus do I counsel you, my friends: distrust all in whom the impulse to punish is powerful!

Distrust all those who talk much of their justice! Verily, in their souls not only honey is lacking.

And when they call themselves “the good and just,” forget not, that for them to be Pharisees, nothing is lacking but—power!

My friends, I will not be mixed up and confounded with others. There are those who preach my doctrine of life, and are at the same time preachers of equality, and tarantulas.

That they speak in favour of life, though they sit in their den, these poison-spiders, and withdrawn from life—is because they would thereby do injury.

To those would they thereby do injury who have power at present: for with those the preaching of death is still most at home.

– Thus Spake Zarathustra, XXIX. The Tarantulas

 

Next

The nationalist tail wags the Communist international dog.  Next: Part 35, Nationalism and Internationalism.

Postmodernism 101, Part 4: Staring into the Abyss

What is postmodernism? Is it a problem?  The following continues a series of posts explaining postmodernism.  It is based on the book, Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault, by Prof. Stephen Hicks.

Previous posts include:

Erstwhile
immanuel-kantImmanuel Kant

In Marxist tradition, postmodernism seeks to overthrow modern philosophy and its progeny.  The Enlightenment’s modern philosophy overthrew the Medieval philosophy of faith.  Modernism supposed individuals could use perception and reason (not faith) to know reality.  Its progeny were individualism, science, liberal democracy, free markets, technology, and medicine.

The German Counter-Enlightenment reacted to defend faith and community.  Immanuel Kant attacked reason with logic’s razor, slicing objectivity away.  Reason was left half-blind, unable to know reality.  Hegel thought Kant’s defense weak, and launched a counter-revolution.  Hegel conjured a dialectic that played by its own rules, a game changer that slapped logic away and reinvented reason.

Crisis

The Enlightenment brought a crisis of faith and a crisis of meaning.  Mankind stared into an abyss, half-blind.  Some despaired and plunged into darkness.  Some held to belief.  Some leapt into the unknown.  Another summoned lightning in the darkness.

Despair

arthur-schopenhauerArthur Schopenhauer

German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer despaired.  Hegel was a coward, he thought, for attempting to return to religion.  Hegel’s metaphysics were not reality.

Schopenhauer agreed with Kant that our minds understand reality from perceptions and concepts.  “All perception is intellectual,” he wrote, “The world is my representation [of it].”

Our only reality is our will, Schopenhauer wrote.  Our actions define our will, he argued.  Our actions reveal our motivations.  This is all we can know of reality, he said.

To search for more is pointless, Schopenhauer argued, because our will cannot comprehend more.  If we could, he claimed, we would find only chaos, cruelty, and horror.  For Schopenhauer, it would be better that man and the world had never existed.  “Nothing else can be stated as the aim of existence except the knowledge that it would be better for us not to exist,” he despaired.

Belief

friedrich-schleiermachrFriedrich Schleiermachr

German philosopher and theologian Friedrich Schleiermacher held to belief.  Kant was correct, he agreed, that reason cannot know reality.  We believe what reason tells us.  We can believe what faith tells us.

Reason is based on belief, said Schleiermacher.  We perceive external objects.  We cannot know the existence of them, independent of our minds.  The external world is an object of belief.

Faith is based on belief, he argued.  We can look inward, into our hearts.  In our deepest religious feelings, we can sense the divine.  Our faith is also an object of belief.

Faith requires that we limit reason, Schleiermacher concluded,  “No God without a world, and no world without God”.

Leap into the Unknown

soren-kierkagaardSoren Kierkegaard

Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard pushed us to make a leap of faith.  He agreed with Kant that knowledge of reality was impossible.  Nevertheless, the world forces choices upon us.  Our destinies are at sake.  We must act.

We make life’s choices in ignorance, Kierkegaard contended.  “Life can only be understood backwards,” he said, “but it must be lived forwards.”

We must choose, Kierkegaard said, “I see it all perfectly; there are two possible situations – one can either do this or that.  My honest opinion and my friendly advice is this: do it or do not – you will regret both.”

We must make a leap of faith, Kierkegaard concluded.  God cannot be justified rationally.  God is irrational and unknowable, he said.  Like Abraham, he said, we must relinquish our understanding and thinking, and keep our soul fixed upon the unknowable.  We must “crucify reason” and make a leap of faith into the unknowable.

Lightning in the Darkness

friedrich-nietzscheFriedrich Nietzsche

German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche fought to light a way in the falling dark.  Christianity’s candle was dimming, its moral compass failing.  The specter of Schopenhauer’s despair followed him.  Nietzsche summoned lightning to light the way.

Nietzsche saw the German battle against the Enlightenment as one of hatred between brothers who “wronged each other as only brothers wrong each other”.  The Enlightenment was an attack on the philosophical German spirit by the English mechanistic mind.

Nietzsche agreed with the “catastrophic spider” Kant, that reason was woeful.  Reason relied on our “weakest and most fallible organ”, he said, our consciousness.  Reason demeaned us “unfortunate creatures”, reducing us to “thinking, inferring, reckoning, coordinating cause and effect”.

Christianity could guide us no longer.  “God is dead! God remains dead! And we have killed him!”, Nietzsche lamented,  “How shall we console ourselves, the most murderous of all murderers?”  Without religion’s moral compass, how could we guide ourselves?  “Whither do we move?  Away from all suns?  Do we not dash on unceasingly?  Backwards, sideways, forwards, in all directions?  Is there still an above and below?”  Nietzsche asked.

Nietzsche dispelled the specter of Schopenhauer’s despair.  His pessimism was born of religious “world-renouncing morality”.  Fear and pessimism must not drive us to religion, he argued.

Nietzsche proposed a way forward: Will to Power – the exercise of power to achieve individual potential.  “A living thing seeks above all to discharge its strength,” Nietzsche said, “Life itself is Will to Power.”  Man must become the Superman, he argued, “the lightening out of the dark cloud”.  We should not be herded by “good and just” herdsmen.  What good are happiness, reason, virtue, justice, or pity?  We must live dangerously and embrace conflict to achieve our full potential.

Nietzsche’s short life ended in madness, his works incomplete.  Others took up his works and twisted them to terrible ends.

Commentary

The German Counter-Enlightenment had now split roughly into two camps:  one Hegelian, the other irrationalist.  Schleiermacher, Kierkegaard, Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche represent German philosophy’s irrationalist camp:

  • Reality.  Reason cannot know reality.
    • The theists (Schleiermacher, Kierkegaard) found truth in the rational and the irrational.
    • The atheists (Schopenhauer, Nietzsche) found no truth (only phenomena and will).
  • Human Nature.
    • Schleiermacher endorsed conscious choice of good and evil (subject to human nature).
    • Kierkegaard endorsed personal freedom to choose salvation (subject to original sin).
    • The atheists (Schopenhauer, Nietzsche) perceived will.
  • Values.
    • Kierkegaard valued individual freedom, opposed Hegelian collectivism, and valued faith in Christ.
    • Schleiermacher valued the higher good, including the individual and their duty to God and community (the collective).
    • Schopenhauer was a nihilist who thought the search for universal truths to be absurd (futile, pointless).  He saw no point in life.
    • Nietzsche was a moral skeptic who denied universal truths.  He valued achievement of individual potential in a hierarchy (at all costs).  He opposed mass movements (“the herd”, “the rabble”).

The Twentieth century awaited –  twisted ideologies and a maelstrom of chaos, war, revolution, carnage, and monstrous horror.

Next

Postmodernism’s foundation is laid.  Next: Part 5, Heidegger Knows Nothing.