Download: Philosophy and Human Values (1990) Lecture 6: Nietzsche – Knowledge and Belief

Transcript: Last time, in our last lecture we were screaming about the United States government and its many failings. I want to make clear something, and its… unfortunately in the current context… ah, I must tell you that many of you who came here to hear a course on “Philosophy and Human Values” probably expected more “Philosophy” and less on the “Human Values” side. Well, I hope some of you were here yesterday when I ran through a series of ethical theories; and I think I gave some arguments. That was my “professionalising” work. In other words, that was the display of my rough credentials to do this.

Now, I am onto a topic of which I consider… so far, in a way, its just groundwork for the other stuff, because all of the great ethical theories do in a way contain utopian moments. In a way; being a Stoic, an Epicurean, being someone who pursues Excellence; are all interesting and historically recoverable… in a certain sense… projects. What I have pointed out today is, that situation in which we find ourselves in; modern life, in the present, means that there are other conditions that must be met to even pursue those projects. So, I don’t see the two sets of remarks as different as you might think. It’s not as though I did philosophy one day and politics the next, because such watertight distinctions are not viable between philosophy and politics.

And again, before I return to Marx, let me try to indicate that the priority of politics is marked even in the Greeks, where the last thing that Aristotle wrote was a constitution for Athens. He wrote that, you know, last; after he had written the Metaphysics, the Physics, the Logic and all this stuff. I have a feeling that he thought that constitution as important as anything he wrote.

We certainly know about Plato writing The Republic; that that remark about the best kind of state, and that debate in Plato is certainly as important as anything he wrote. So, in a way, ah, even the classic philosophers – the ones that the people from the National Association of Scholars love – understand that politics, as it were, sets those boundary conditions and those necessary conditions within which human beings can pursue things like a good life for themselves.

And so, those are the conditions that I was discussing last time; and trying to discuss then in the context of the present. For that I have found Marx helpful in one respect. I want to point out something about that though. There is a severe problem with the writings and the work of Marx that is all too obvious to us today; and that’s that the assumption that workers shaping and forming their own modes of work wouldn’t fall victim to the power of the State; which would now step in in place of a capitalist class, exploit their labour in the same way… not exactly in the same way, you know, they’d use different words and all that. As I say, pretty much from the bottom its hard to tell the difference. But, you know, they’d use a different ideology… but his expectation that the State would do more than administer; and actually control the lives of people, was an absolute blind spot in his work.

But then look at our Liberal theorists. For them an equal blind spot is that while they may pay lipservice to wanting to constrain the State, you know, and let free enterprise flourish – that led, when it was tried, and it hasn’t been tried in a long time – when it was tried, it led to a great deep worldwide depression that scared the capitalist class so much that no-one has ever tried it again since. And no-one plans to. President Reagan came into office promising to shrink the size of the state; as you may now, as a matter of fact it is now larger than ever.

So that the process of a world becoming bureaucratically more complex and more intrusive at the level of the state is a world phenomenon. It’s not localisable. The process of an economy becoming ever more diverse – commodifying ever more sections of our lives… until we’ve replaced the “sunday stroll”, to use another example… I mean, I’m old enough to remember that… when I’d go with my grandad, and we’d go for a stroll on Sunday. Well that can’t be done now without a relation to the commodity. Well it could be, but rarely is. We are socialised to go for a stroll someplace else on Sunday now. The mall is open in the afternoon. Even in North Carolina, after church, they open it up… after church. You can stroll through the mall. So that you can both stroll, and shop. The strolling aspect is still important, I mean I’m not saying it’s not kind of kinky to walk around and watch people buy things. It’s amusing.

So, I don’t want you to think that Marx has a critique of capitalism only, and that’s all I am interested in. The critique of the state and state bureaucracy is also important. And I have mentioned the name of Max Weber, but I didn’t bring in any of his books. They are real thick, real boring, and I have suggested that a sense for what a modern bureaucracy is like can be evoked from reading the novels of Franz Kafka.

Things like “Before the Law” and “The Trial” will give you more of a sense of being caught in a modern bureaucracy. And all of you have that sense anyway. If you’ve, you know, moved to a new city and tried to hook up a telephone, and they say: “Go to room 238″. You go to room 238, and they say “Where did you come from? Who did you talk to?”. You go “I forgot”. They go, “Oh no, you’ll have to go back to room 104″. You go to 104, 104 says “You’ve been to 232? Well, you can’t come to room 104″. And we all know this. I mean that’s what modern bureaucracies look and feel like, you know. So for that go to Kafka.

So, what I was trying to develop last time was a criticism of the State, and of the economy. Of a new arising global order… that I guess has become popular enough to deserve the moniker “New World Order”. A new order. I am always suspicious of new orders.

So now I am going to drop back a level and look at some of the other factors that go into it, ah, into the formation of human values other than, although I still think these are crucially important; other than the economic ones. And ah, for that purpose, I just can’t restrain myself from looking at a couple more of the critics of Modernity; you might call it critics of modern life, of the modern state, the modern economy, and of the conditions in which a modern culture is formed. And ah, one of those critics that I think has come under fire in Time magazine and elsewhere; is Nietzsche. You may have heard of him: Nietzsche.

It’s very popular now to see Nietzsche as the new threat. You know, in the sixties the right wing was worried too many college professors read Marx. They don’t worry about that anymore. [crowd laughter]. People like Jon Elster run huge institutes; they’re analytic Marxists, that’s respectable. Now you are looked at sort of a little… you know, just a little funny if your interest is in Nietzsche, and I’ll try to explain first what’s supposed to be so scandalous about Nietzsche.

Nietzsche is supposed to hold the scandalous view that knowledge is a form of power. Now that is scandalous because knowledge is knowledge. It’s objective. You know, like journalism. And it would be scandalous to show that wherever we find knowledge, we will find it structured and constructed around a system (or systems) of power. Won’t find one without the other.

Now, one can think of this along the simplest pedagogical models. By that I mean the classroom models. I mean, I ought to know this from teaching the university. I know how to pass along knowledge.

To get someone to believe me in the last analysis, I give them an “A”, which I could replace with a “happy face”. They are used to that, it’s from kindergarten. They are both just symbols, right, of achievement. They’re not getting paid for this stuff. Just give them a little “A”, they smile. That same system starts in kindergarten: “happy face”… “A”… runs through to “F”. “F”, no face… blank. The same thing would work in kindergarten. That form I used looks fair. I mean, I am grading objectively. But the point is deeper. That what the knowledge is based on is my spot of power as the teacher. That’s what it’s based on. Now, you would go: “oh no – it’s based on what’s really true!”. Yeah, but… but… how does that get meted out and parsed out? Who decides that? Well the blunt and ugly answer is: we do. The teachers do. We decide.

Now there are clear counter examples to Nietzsche’s argument. In mathematics at its simplest levels, I will grant you, that if we are doing a mathematics course, I could grade objectively. But I will also grant you that nothing of great importance to human values hangs on truths that everyone can accept. That two plus two is four, that A is A… are all acceptable… and they are acceptable precisely because nothing of very great human importance hangs on them. The moment you go a little beyond that in any direction, even in math class, when you discuss for example the philosophy of mathematics, then the disputes start, and then power at some point has to insert itself and decide.

So, an important part of Nietzsche’s investigation is in the interconnection between forms of knowledge and power. Forms of… and for the purposes of our course… forms of ethical behaviour and power, ah, are the subject of his most important book. Well, maybe not his most important, but certainly the one… that is the most coherent: “On the Genealogy of Morals“, by Nietzsche. And in this book – and I am going to talk about it just briefly – Nietzsche talks about not what’s right and wrong the way we did in previous lectures; good or bad actions, but the word “genealogy” talks about what were the origins of the situations within which we make the value judgements. In other words, from where did this distinction come; good, bad, right, wrong, and so on?

Now Nietzsche’s argument is rather… ah, abrasive… it’s certainly provocative, and “The Genealogy of Morals” traces the moral form of discourse – good, bad, right, wrong – back to rigidly… and again, remember this is 19th Century Germans again… back to the Greeks. Now, here Nietzsche talks about the Greeks as having… the word he uses is very important… and this will move us finally back to our account of the present. Nietzsche talks about the translation of “Virtue”. What was Virtue for the Greeks? Nietzsche was a philologist who could never get a normal job as a professor, because he was a little nuts, okay. And anyway… that wouldn’t have stopped him now, but it stopped him then.

For the Greeks, Virtue… when I said the word, I could see all of you go: “Oh, virtue…”… yeah, it wasn’t like that for the Greeks, I have already given you the Greek ideal of Odysseus, where Virtue included the ability to be a clever liar. In other words, knowing when and who to con was important. That’s not part of the Victorian idea of virtue, but its part of the Greek ideal of it. And so, ah… Virtue for them meant this “Excellence” in being well rounded. It meant to be excellent at revenge, so that – unlike the Christian ideal of Virtue – if someone strikes you, you strike them back, and the reason you do that is because if you don’t it will offend them worse. It will hurt their honour and yours. Much more virtuous to hit them back, then both your honours are intact. It will only humiliate them to turn your face, as though they were unworth scum; no, hit them back. So Nietzsche discusses this use of virtue; and the Greek evaluation he calls “noble”.

Now, “noble” itself for Nietzsche is not a term of value, but a kind of descriptive term of the way the Greeks evaluated. And he himself is not doing ethics the way I was doing it the other day. He is giving, as it were, a genealogy; a history of the way in which we have come to use these words. For Nietzsche the key movement in the way the words “good”, “bad”, “right” and “wrong” occur, occur around the word “virtue”, and occur with the Christian transformation of virtue. From something active, based on Excellence into something filled with what Nietzsche calls “resentment“.

And I guess there is a simple way to make the argument – and I am trying to keep my remarks here at a level where they are debatable – what he means is something like this. For the Greeks, you know, someone who was strong enough to sin went ahead and sinned; which meant they did what they wanted to and enjoyed it… and for the Greeks, that was good. The Christian idea of “virtue” which includes the idea of “guilt” and “sin” meant that you wanted to do something real bad and you don’t; and they’re frustrated and filled with resentment towards those sinners who go ahead and do what they want to do. And you turn the name of your fault – cowardice – into a virtue: “virtue”. Really you just didn’t have the guts to go ahead and do what you wanted to do… trying to make it sound even slimier than it is, but this is Nietzsche’s argument. In other words you didn’t have the strength to go ahead and pursue what you really wanted. And so your name for that inability is your virtue: you didn’t do it.

Well we know that doesn’t work out frequently because we have several notorious cases; the Jimmy Swaggart case shows that the most virtuous sometimes fall. But its worse than that. Nietzsche says this Christian notion of virtue is a double trap. Because lets suppose someone who has the strength to pursue excellence goes ahead and does what what they want to do and finds satisfaction, then because the whole field within which right and wrong was understood in the Christian era is different than the whole field within which right and wrong were understood in an earlier period, when you go ahead and do that, then you pay another price: guilt. That’s when you internally torment yourself for the very paradoxical and perverse reason that you did what you wanted to do. You know, “Damn, I’m so bad, I did what I wanted to do”. You don’t do what you wanted to do and you feel, as it were, helpless but a little bit smug and resentful towards others that do otherwise; that’s resentment. Or you go ahead and do it and then feel guilty and have resentment towards yourself.

So Nietzsche talks about this reversal of values as a reversal of values from the Greek values; and the key word is “virtue”. Virtue is very differently understood in the Victorian era, and this is what Nietzsche talks about in “The Genealogy of Morals”. One of the things the argument does, whether you like it or not… or whether you accept it or not, and I have only outlined it in kind of a snide, quick way here today. Whether you like it or not, the interesting part of Nietzsche’s project is that what we could see… and I haven’t done that in here, but what we could have presented as eternal problems of morality… in Nietzsche’s account we become very aware that these so called “eternal” problems change radically depending on where you happen to be in history.

What gets called “good” is different if you happen to be in one society – or one historical period – and in another. Now that seems like the shocking claim that “it’s all relative”, right? That’s where Nietzsche is supposed to be so abominably bad for a real humanistic education; that it’s all relative. Well this has never… this is not a part of the argument. What Nietzsche is trying to show is that knowledge, truth, objectivity and good and bad have conditions for possibility. And those conditions for possibility change. That doesn’t destroy what seems to be someone who lives in the Victorian period’s right to call someone a sinner. In fact it’s a conditionfor the possibility of them doing it. You see what I mean. It’s not that everything is relative. It’s that there are conditions within which evaluations take place that themselves require analysis. In other words his account is not a moral theory, but it is a theory about how we have come to have the moral theories we do have… how we have come to have the ones that we do have.

Freud paid a tremendous compliment to Nietzsche. Freud said that Nietzsche knew more about himself than any other human had ever known or was ever likely to know. Fairly smart guy I guess. Nietzsche was very bright. His main target was Christianity, and I am going to… now we are going to return to a more contemporary critique of Christianity. In this lecture I am going to present a little bit of Nietzsche’s critique of Christianity. And the reason I am going to do it and how it’s connected with my earlier remarks is to this very day, in spite of the so called secularisation of the world… values and especially in the United States… in our culture – and again we are working for a theory of the present – are still by and large Christian… by and large Christian values. Those are the official public ones, right. The official public values. Again, the gap between how they are practiced and what they are is all a matter of dispute.

Growing out of the discourse of Hegel there are other critiques, as I say, Nietzsche is one. He focuses on the values that surround Christianity. Ah, so I am going to a little bit more about him now, and then in the next lecture I want to talk about a Christian who has a criticism of modern Christianity. So you’ll get both sides; one guy, sort of, you’ll know before I am though here, ah, thinks Christianity was a… mistake. From the standpoint of the species it was a mistake. He goes… well not quite, you know, a two thousand year mistake? I mean, it was more than that; it was a little bit more catastrophic.

Nietzsche thinks that among the other ill effects of Christianity… one of them is very banal. It’s the habit of bad reading. He explains how many of use are raised in churches where when we bother to read – now this won’t hold for many of our Jewish friends… people who believe other religions – but our Christian friends were taught to read the Old Testament where every stick of wood, every stone, every snake, every bird, every bat is a sign of Jesus. And Nietzsche points out that this inculcates in us habits of bad reading. It does. You know if you think about it “Well, you know in that book there…” then the preacher reads some just unintelligible piece of the Old Testament, you know “The locusts have no king… and that means Jesus is coming” and you go “Hmm, yeah, okay”. Nietzsche says this makes you not read well. [crowd laughter]

Being brought up this way tends to make you not read well. Ah, it’s worse than that however, and that’s that the way Christianity presents itself is a doctrine of love and compassion. Certainly that has something to do with some of its appeal to our national character, and that’s good, to adopt a doctrine of love and compassion. Nietzsche’s concern in this book “On the Genealogy of Morals” is to show that what’s beneath that mask of love and compassion is really a doctrine of resentment and hatred. And I think I can make that come alive for you with some pretty banal examples.

One would be, ah, Jerry Fallwell, who discussed homosexuals; he loves them. How many people really believe he loves them? See I don’t. I think he hates them. His way of hating them is to love them. That’s the trick Nietzsche was after. The trick about how resentment, envy and hatred can be masked with these words: love and compassion. It’s an important argument today because I think we have become a suspicious culture. Nietzsche has been called one of the masters of suspicion. Paul Ricouer the philosopher called him a “master of suspicion”. Ah, Ricouer is a Christian as well, he just thinks that reading these books is the mediation through which any modern kind of faith would have to pass. You’d have to read them, understand them before you’d know what you meant by having faith.

In any case Nietzsche sees this dynamic of resentment and envy as being, as it were, the unspoken, or the code beneath the code of Christianity. And so for the first time in the course I am going to pull out a section of a book that I want to look at, if I can find the correct quote here. This is from “On the Genealogy of Morals” ah, in this edition it is on page 48, section 15, the first essay. Nietzsche is discussing ah, Christian love, as it were, and faith, and hope. Nietzsche in his rather cynical way says “In faith in what? In love of what? In hope of what? These weak people, some day or other they too intend to be strong” You ever heard an evangelist and got that feeling? That although they were meek some day they intended to be real strong? That’s the idea.

“There is no doubt of that because they say their kingdom is coming. They term it ‘The Kingdom of God’ because after all, one should be so humble in all things. To experience that kind of duplicity one needs to live a long time. Dante, I think committed a crude blunder; when with a terror inspiring ingenuity he placed at the gateway of his hell the inscription ‘I too was created by eternal love’. At any rate, there would be more justification for placing above the gateway to the Christian paradise and its eternal bliss the inscription ‘I too was created by eternal hate’, provided a truth could be written above the gateway to a lie. What constitutes the bliss of this paradise?”

Well Nietzsche goes on to quote, not Jerry Fallwell but Saint Thomas Aquinas; great teacher, saint, certainly knew more about Christianity than I do, or most of us. Ah, Thomas Aquinas says that “The blessed in the kingdom of heaven will see the punishments of the damned in order that their bliss be more delightful for them”. At that moment in Nietzsche’s text, something creepy should come up on your back. You should go “Saint Thomas Aquinas said that in heaven, our chief bliss would be that we could see all those mean people that got us while we were alive. Having all of that stuff ripped off of them, eternally, forever” And Nietzsche’s text wants to bring alive for us the barbarism, the hatred that must be buried in such a doctrine of love at its core. It’s a very frightening argument, but it isn’t limited and I don’t want to limit it to a set of Christian values specifically…

…but to certain duplicitous ways in which words of value are used in general. The way that a bomb can be dropped lovingly, surgically. See, when you cut someone in surgery you do it to heal them, right? That’s what a surgical strike is, that’s why it’s surgical; cuts the cancer out, leaves the patient alive. But that’s not all a surgical strike is, you see. This field within which good and bad appear so clearly to us – or is supposed to, I think some of us may be getting a little confused – in which values are supposed to be so clearly… appear to us… may very well have these duplicities built within them.

A surgical strike may not be like surgery with Dr Kildare. It could turn out there could be some resentment and hatred beneath it. There might be, it’s possible. Nietzsche is not trying to argue demonstratively, or to prove a syllogism, but rather to raise suspicions. To raise the kinds of suspicions that, as I say, I think many of us have when we look at the content of the values that have come up to us… ah, you know… through our traditions. That’s what Nietzsche is powerfully and importanly good for. Not to deny – again, not to say “All is relative” – but to try to remind us of something of the origins of what we call “good” and “bad”, “right” and “wrong” and so on.

Ah, by the way these values have come out in other contexts. I remember in an earlier war General Westmoreland saying “We had to destroy the village in order to save it” But it was not an irony. He meant it. I mean, so did the early Christian communites that settled into this country mean it. That for a witches own good one had to dunk her repeatedly in water. Now we have come a long way since then haven’t we, because now we lock people away in prisons and in institutions, torment them with drugs, lock them up in the most dangerous environments, have more people in prison in this country per capita than any country in the world except South Africa. I don’t know, the new South Africa may be ahead of us, who knows. But we haven’t gotten as far ahead in this regard as we think, and this argument has been updated by people like Michel Foucault.

Well still have… the idea that we would send someone to prison in order to rehabilitate them, now we are getting to be a little more honest about that. We are getting a little bit more barbaric, and for Nietzsche that would be better. That would be a little more honest. We are sending them to prison because we are scared of them and that we know if they go there really bad things will happen to them and it will ruin their lives and that will make us happy. That’s what we should say when we send one to prison; you know, to be honest. As Nietzsche said “In the name of minimal honesty”, don’t send them to prison and go “Oh, that was the best thing for them”. You know, you were spanked by your father, maybe once, and he just beat the hell out of you “That hurt me worse than it did you”, and you go “I guess…” [crowd laughter]

Reading the text of Nietzsche makes us suspicious of people who do things for our own good. He makes us suspicious of people who “love” us – you know – in a kind of abstract way especially. Ah, so I didn’t want you to think that I had sort of with my previous lecture become soft hearted, so that’s why we followed up with the Nietzsche lectures [crowd laughter]. We don’t want any conservatives saying “Well, you are not tough minded enough”, and this is sort a little bit more of the tough minded stuff.

Just sort of a Christian doctrine of loving everyone Nietzsche says does not work, because love is meaningless without discrimination. In other words, in what way do I honour you, to love you, if I love everybody else too? See that’s… there are many points like that in Nietzsche that I think are quite challenging and quite interesting. It is absolutely, for Nietzsche, duplicitous to go “I just love everyone”. Well, you haven’t met everyone and some of them you are not going to like. [crowd laughter] Because they are asses, and you are not going to like them. And if you did, the people you really loved ought to be irritated, because you’d say “Well, I thought you loved me, you love everybody? Well, big deal, I’ll see you later. I mean, you know, you bump into me again, you’ll still love me.” It’s like Will Rogers “I never met a man I didn’t like”, well he never met George Bush [crowd laughter] You know.

Ah, so Nietzsche is a wonderful… and all I can do is… because his argument is intricate and powerful, I am just giving you suggestive bits of it today. But ah, Nietzsche is one of the modern masters of suspicion, the reading of whose books… I think warns us against some of our, as it were, not prejudices, because it’s not fair to call something a prejudice that’s so deeply seated, you know, that is so much a part of our civilisation and culture. It’s not really a prejudice, but it is an eye opening experience to get, as it were, another look at it; a look at what might be beneath it.

And so, to get ready for my remarks on Nietzsche today it was simply enough, as I say, to switch around… the TV… not enough, I mean I, unfortunately I had to read this stuff before, and all this… probably when I was too young. Let’s switch around and hear Oral Roberts discuss how much he loved everybody out in TV land and that ten big enemies were coming after all of them… however he didn’t name any of them so it’s not very helpful [crowd laughter]. I mean if you knew who they were you could call the cops or something I guess. Those are “peace officers”… carry weapons, like patriot missiles, peace keepers, but ah to hear Oral and the various morning preachers – and of course in the case of Fallwell, I think it’s just outstanding, because Fallwell always loves his enemies. And the duplicity in it is palpable, and I just think that someone would have to be incredibly naive not to feel it almost. Especially if you have seen him in debate with some leader, for example a homosexual one, and so on “I love you”. You just know that somewhere in there is the desire to inter everyone. [crowd laughter]

More importantly, in the very texts that form the Christian tradition, like Thomas Aquinas are these frightening moments that look marginal to the main tradition but I don’t think anyone is going to raise their hand and say Saint Thomas Aquinas is a marginal figure in the history of Christianity. These blinding moments of clarity where we have these people say “The chief pleasure will be to see the torments of the damned”. I mean, why will heaven be a lot of fun? Well we will be there a long time and it will be like a Clive Barker movie. All the people we didn’t like will be being torn apart, like in one of those Clive Barker films and that will be a lot of fun. It will be an ongoing splatter movie mixed with harp music. [crowd laughter]. It will be a real gig – a trip – it will be fun!

Well anyway, Nietzsche’s discourse would teach us to be a little more honest about this, I think. And when we intend to punish or kill people, it would be nice to say that we intend to punish or kill them. By nice I mean not moral, we are in this moral universe where duplicity is built into being virtuous. Still, you see how I said earlier for the Greeks telling lies well is sort of openly acknowledged as something clever to do, but that duplicity is still built into the concept of virtue in a way. I mean we can’t really tell the truth even about wars, as you know. We can’t really let it all hang out and say “Well you know we started off… just invade Kuwait and get it back, but now we are really pissed, and we want to kill all those damn Arabs, every one of them and that damn Saddam, and any of those other people who are yelling and burning our flag too”.

Well, I have been out and around the country, and that’s the attitude out there. It’s not… it’s funny, sort of the lower you go down the educational scale the more honest it gets. That’s sort of nice. At the universities we have a lot of professors who believe the same thing who just won’t say it that way…

…They believe it, they just won’t say it. Instead they’ll do sort of a General Haig kind of discussion of it; the way Al Haig talks, sort of in state department-ese, full of lots of “ing” words and coinages that are not found in the English language that just you know cover over the real situation, when what Al Hague really wants to say is “I am in charge and the dark little people will die”. That’s the message. And it’s right and good that they should die, because they will die so that everyone can be free in the New World Order, and right on let’s go get ‘em; kick butt, drop bombs, they die, don’t talk, kill.

So like… it’s like a proposal for surrender… a proposal for surrender as follows. “You surrender or we’ll bomb you while you sit there, but of course if you get up to leave we will bomb you while you are walking away. Is that a good policy? See that’s almost Nietzschean isn’t it? Surrender, but don’t move. Of course, if you don’t move, you won’t have surrendered, so we’ll have to bomb you, but if you move we won’t be sure you have surrendered so we’ll have to bomb you. So surrender, but we’ll bomb you is kind of a policy designed to do what? Bomb people! They can do “Don’t…”, but it won’t help, because they will have to be either still or moving, or some condition in between. Again, it would be better openly to say “Now that we have got this thing going we are all good Christians who want to do the right thing and we are all believers in good Democracy, but for the moment, let’s forget it. This is too much fun. Let’s really hammer them. And let’s prove that our version of the Peloponnesian War, the one that made the Greeks so confused about their values…”

In our cuture, we had a war like that, that confused us about our values – Vietnam – and it seems kind of a background theme of the current war, of a philosophy of the present which I am now connecting the discourse of Nietzsche, loosely. A target might be to kill the guilt and the fear that were produced by that other troubling moment in history. Nothing would do that better than a clean kill with a huge majority for it. A quick clean kill. What better basis on which to build a New World Order, than an order of barbarism… I mean, you know… than this massively quick and effective barbarism which would accomplish what should be openly stated as a public goal of the war. Namely, to prove that the peace loving hippies were wrong and Rambo right, and that is in that earlier war, if only we had just kept bombing and hitting them with everything we had, those damn peaceniks and those newspaper guys and all those bleeding hearts wouldn’t have lost the war for us.

Well if we can go in now and show that massive force continually applied will bring this country to its knees, it will be a way to demonstrate that that could have been done before. That all those people that raised all that hell were even more wrong than they have already admitted. Good god, even more sold out than they were already sold. It’s like the New World Order can’t tolerate even a little, just a little bit of opposition. And that may be true of it because it is, I don’t know if it’s Nietzsche’s view but it’s mine, that systems of power connected to systems of value tend to spread and become total. In other words, they tend to want to fill up the total field of discourse within which we discuss the moral. This is well known about religions… as we, you know… helps to account for a lot of religious wars. The principle of toleration is not built into people who have that kind of insight into the truth.

That’s why I wanted to begin – I did begin – by discussing fallibilism, not as some deep philosophical principle, but as the following principle. That it’s okay to have beliefs, but suspect your own beliefs. That it’s important to believe some things passionately, but it’s also important to have the wisdom to know that you could be dead wrong. So, using Nietzsche to bring up this critique of some of the values that have come out of the so called “Christian tradition”, I realise that I could be wrong, Nietzsche could be wrong. But all these arguments – from him, and the suggestions I have made during this hour – are meant to do are to suggest a kind of suspicion of that tradition.

Now, Nietzsche does say what is… one of the powerful motivations behind Christianity which is, I have argued, deeply connected to the current world situation. One of its powerful motivations is it does speak to something that’s very important, and human beings might quite generally share it. And that’s the need for love. Christianity is sort of a lyrical religion in that respect, it speaks of love. And it’s hard not to know that it fudges the distinction between the earthly and the carnal kind. It fudges that distinction. I don’t know how many of you have ever been to an evangelical meeting out in the country, but that’s the night when all the men and women get dressed up in their best clothes and go and sing these rousing songs and sweat in their best perfume and sing “Love lifted me”, and it’s very difficult not to see Nietzsche’s point. That Christianity has always been a find for those who have repressed sexuality. [crowd laughter]. It’s quite a find, it always has been.

So all I can suggest is that you read more Nietzsche. In a cynical time like this it is hardly necessary, most of you are probably that cynical already anyway, maybe this was a waste of time. But I wanted to add to the economic and political conditions what might be called “cultural conditions”, of which religion remains an important one and so the discussion of Nietzsche fits there, and also it fits because it’s still a project for some, and a quite serious one. So now that I have presented Nietzsche’s rather cynical view, ah, in the next one I will discuss Kierkegaard’s view, but the problem with this is that Christianity – as I have already argued – in a modern society is already a very… idiosyncratic project. Very idiosyncratic.

I know that because I have been a faculty in residence and lived with students at a university and had them come in and complain “My roommate is a real sky pilot”, by which they mean he reads the bible a lot and irritates them. And it… that’s an easier way to get rid of a roommate than coming in and saying he is a Nazi, because the Nazi will just put up some swastikas in the room and use some words you don’t like, the other guy will be up praying and irritating you all night. [crowd laughter]. But Christianity I have been discussing here is not Christianity in the intimate sense of faith that I will discuss when I briefly discuss Kierkegaard, another critic of modern times. But that Christianity that has become a public religion about which I guess the briefest Nietzsche critique is that it’s open as a public religion.

In his appointment to politics Harry Truman I think is quoted as saying that in our system, to run for political office you have got to pour God and Jesus all over everything like ketchup over your food; it’s just got to be covered up in it. Now Carter was a different story. Someone said I had to say something about Jimmy Carter, in any course on ethics you have got to talk about Jimmy Carter. Ah, and all I can say about Jimmy is that he is a good Christian, but he did admit that he lusted in his heart after other women. If he had courage enough, he would have been Ted Kennedy. [crowd laughter]. And if Ted Kennedy had the courage of Nietzsche, he would have said “Yeah I did it and I liked it and you would have too if you had been there” [crowd laughter], which is probably true! Don’t you see I am not really trying to be cynical here, it’s probably right! Nietzsche isn’t trying to be just cynical to irritate you folks, I mean that’s probably right. Yes, if you are rich, good looking, lots of people… yeah sure why not! So there’s like a distinction there, there’s sort of Kennedy… Carter… wayyy down the end of the spectrum is Richard Nixon. Is it almost question time, I really don’t know what other nasty things to say about folks. [crowd laughter].