12 July 2003

why i like nietzsche

The guy is just too funny sometimes. I alluded to this paragraph from Beyond Good and Evil in an earlier post, but the wider context is a hoot, even for an Anglophile like me:They are not a philosophical race, the English. Bacon represents an attack on the philosophical spirit generally. Hobbes, Hume, and Locke, an abasement and a depreciation of the idea of a "philosopher" for more than a century. It was against Hume that Kant rose up and raised himself. It was Locke of whom Schelling rightly said, "I disdain Locke!" In the struggle against the English-mechanical stultification of the world, Hegel and Schopenhauer (along with Goethe) were of one accord...

What is lacking in England, and has always been lacking, that half-actor and rhetorician knew well enough, the absurd muddle-head, Carlyle, who sought to conceal under passionate grimaces what he knew about himself: namely, what was lacking in Carlyle--real power of intellect, real depth of intellectual perception, in short: philosophy.
Nietzsche goes on to assail the character of English Christianity and piety, suggesting that while (in Nietzsche's view) Christianity is a "poison," in the case of the English mindset it works as an antidote. Continuing along these lines, he goes on to comment that with regard "the herd of drunkards and rakes" caught up in English pietistic revivals such as Methodism and the Salvation Army "a penitential fit may really be the relatively highest manifestation of 'humanity' to which they can be elevated. Thus much may reasonably be admitted."

Nietzsche, of course, is often offensive, always an utter snob, and at times says the most outrageous things. Still, the man who said, "without music, life would be a mistake," goes on to draw this conclusion:That, however, which is most offensive even in the humanest Englishman is his lack of music, to speak figuratively (and also literally): he has neither rhythm nor dance in the movements of his soul and body; indeed, not even the desire for rhythm and dance, for "music." Listen to him speaking; look at the most beautiful Englishwoman walking--in no other country on earth do the doves and swans walk more beautifully. Finally, listen to the English singing! Ah, but I ask too much...In any case, agree or disagree with Nietzsche's observations here, I do think he has a point about the character of English philosophy. But maybe I'm just in a peculiar mood this week.

Eh, who knows? I am but a collection of shifting texts with an indeterminate meaning.