Sunday, March 4, 2012

Nietzsche Strikes Out

Today I picked up some tomes penned by Friedrich Nietzsche, including his  The Will to Power, which I started to read immediately.

What struck me immediately from reading the first few pages of The Will to Power, and why I say the man struck out, is that he assumed that Christianity staved off nihilism in the ancient world when, in fact, it did no such thing.  The false certainty of superiority of Christianity, when it fails-- as it must-- is what will create nihilism in modernity.  Of that I have no doubt, but there simply is no reason to believe that nihilism existed in the ancient world.  Nietzsche's assumption seems to be that before Christianity (or perhaps Judaism), the Western world was marked by nihilism, but I don't see any evidentiary basis for that assumption.  In all likelihood, the man was simply projecting his despair at learning that what he was taught as a Lutheran was morally bankrupt, that like Freud, Nietzsche was incapable of thinking beyond himself, that at best he could extrapolate from his own experience and project it upon others.

Update:  To be clear, my criticism relates solely to the unstated assumption that morality sprang from Christianity.  Many people mistakenly believe that there can be no morality without religion, so Nietzsche is not alone.  Interestingly, CHS seems to make similar observations solely in a secular sense, in his various discussions of "When Belief in the System Fades."