Nietzsche’s Ecce Homo

[what follows is, even more than usual for this blog, an amateur reaction from dipping ignorant toes into vast oceans]

Visionary, poetic, extreme: Nietzsche and Blake provide book-ends to Romanticism. Both seek to up-end conventional morality, Blake because it represents the interests of power-structures against the powerless, Nietzsche (I think) because it, now become somewhat Blakian, is aesthetically displeasing (see below). Wilde is, as aesthetic √úbermensch, Nietzschean; but not at all in his compassion and moral siding with the poor. In ways analogous to those in which we are all now Marxists (supporters of a society which lets the unwashed swarm over Chatsworth), we are now Nietzschean in our rejection of literal religion, but anti-Nietzschean in our at least superficial espousal of Christ’s teaching: only swivel-eyed Randians would deny that it’s a good thing to help the poor, even if they don’t actually do it.

Nietzsche claims to be the dividing point of human history: things are either before or after him. He’s right, if we see him as the moment when Enlightenment doubts climax into the rhetoric of “God is dead”, unleashing, on waves of Marx, Darwin and Freud, the tsunami of modernism. But if we take him at face value, as the Anti-Christ, as the man who demonstrated the supposed errors of Christian morality, then there’s at least one other similarly divisive point – Christ himself, or perhaps, post-Armstrong, the moments when the Golden Rule appeared in societies.

Back to the aesthetics. I’ve only read this book and The Birth of Tragedy, and haven’t thought about either that much, but it does seem as if Nietzsche has no actual arguments for anything he says beyond their own rhetorical power, and the force of his own expression and personality. If this is so, then he really is right: the lone figure on the mountain (that Friedrich painting on the cover is so appropriate), an aristocratic exile from modern industrial urbanism, a new ugly world where even the ignobly born have rights, and a chance to make it.

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But the concept I will take from this book is the quasi-self-help phrase amor fati (love of fate). More than a Stoical acceptance of whatever happens, this seems to be an attitude of seeking positive delight in events. Impossible of course, but none the worse for that; one of Nietzsche’s arguments against Christian sacrificial love is that it’s impossible… but none the worse for that.

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