General Question

fuglyduckling's avatar

Do you support equality?

Asked by fuglyduckling (402 points ) 3 months ago

Now I know that the question is very vague so please read the following:

”[W]hat is freedom! That one has the will to assume responsibility for oneself. That one maintains the distance which separates us. That one becomes more indifferent to difficulties, hardships, privation, even to life itself. That one is prepared to sacrifice human beings for one’s cause, not excluding oneself. Freedom means that the manly instincts which delight in war and victory dominate over other instincts, for example, over those of ‘happiness’. The human being who has become free—and how much more the spirit who has become free—spits on the contemptible type of well-being dreamed of by shopkeepers, Christians, cows, females, Englishmen, and other democrats. The free human being is a warrior.—” (Source: Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols, “Forays of an Untimely Man”, section 38.)

Do you support equality in this context?

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26 Answers

ragingloli's avatar

That one? Hell no.

antimatter's avatar

No… no…Why do I say that is very simple, you don’t sacrifice humans – life to achieve freedom! Are you some kind of an extremist?
Freedom is not instinct it’s a way of life.

dabbler's avatar

I have no idea what equality means in that context.
Could you share what you think it means, and then I’d comment on whether or not I’d support it.
If you mean we’d all be free to be our instinctual selves, that’s savagery and I would not support that. Civilization requires people to make and respect boundaries on their behavior.

gailcalled's avatar

I am stuck at the concept of a democratic cow dreaming of well-being. Is something lost in translation?

janbb's avatar

I’m wondering if your question is mis-worded. The quote from Nietzsche is about freedom; your question title is about equality. It might be better to frame it as a question about Nietzsche’s definition of freedom.

dappled_leaves's avatar

This quote appears to be translated pretty faithfully. There are many versions around; this one is very close to the one that appears in Penguin’s The Portable Nietzsche. From the formatting, it appears to have been lifted from this site, so I assume you’ve read the discussion there.

However, it has little to do with equality. The person who used this quote did so to compare Nietzsche’s writing on equality with what he calls his “egalitarian conceptions of freedom”. I’m not sure I would use this passage to do that, particularly because the “free man” is supposed to count himself as unequal to those in the list at the end of the passage.

XOIIO's avatar

In my opinion everyone is equally entitled to an ass whoppin’

lol

fuglyduckling's avatar

@dappled_leaves It’s true that my question and quote don’t go perfectly together. What is a passage from Nietzsche’s writings that demonstrate his views on equality?

Bill1939's avatar

I wholly support equality. However, as others here have noted, the question is not related to the details that followed it. The only part of the quote from Nietzsche that I agree with is ”[W]hat is freedom! That one has the will to assume responsibility for oneself. ”

stanleybmanly's avatar

This little tirade has nothing to do with equality. It’s about the “freedom” to hold yourself superior to others and regard them with contempt.

GloPro's avatar

Are we helping you with your homework?

harachaitanya's avatar

Your context refer to freedom than equality. However I believe you are referring to equality to opposite sides in war like situation who are fighting for their own freedom. If that is case yes, I support equality because freedom is not one sided.

fuglyduckling's avatar

@GloPro I don’t go to school.

fuglyduckling's avatar

@Michael_Huntington Thanks a lot. I’m reading it now!

SavoirFaire's avatar

As others have noted, this passage is not about equality. But neither is it about freedom—at least not as commonly understood. Characteristically, Nietzsche is playing with the word, and he is doing so to make a point about independence and self-sufficiency

Nietzsche opens the section from which this passage is taken by noting that what something gets us isn’t the only way to evaluate it. We can also evaluate things in terms of what they cost us. Politically liberal societies (which at the time meant democracies) win us a variety of political freedoms. But society itself—democratic or otherwise—costs us a different kind of freedom.

By its very nature, society is a herding behavior. It gathers us together and encourages us to specialize and divide labor. But in doing so, we become more and more dependent on one another. All of the non-farmers have to rely on the farmer for food. All of the non-doctors have to rely on the doctor for medicine, etc. We are not self-sufficient, and thus we are not truly independent.

Insofar as we are not independent, we lack a certain kind of freedom: the freedom to just walk away. A lot of ink has been spilled over Lockean political theory and the right to withdraw from the social contract, but Nietzsche’s point is that it’s all irrelevant if walking away from society is not actually a live option. For all your political freedoms, you are nevertheless bound to society for life.

Now, this might be all well and good. Perhaps it doesn’t bother you at all to be bound to society for life. Still, Nietzsche would say, it is worth pointing out this fact. Why? Because it is so often obscured in liberal societies by all the talk about and adulation for political freedom. Under an authoritarian government—which, for the record, Nietzsche opposed—we have no illusions about our freedom. We know that we are not, in any sense, free. But under a liberal society, we can forget that society itself comes with costs.

Nietzsche’s interest in this is twofold. For one, he’s just a devotee of truth and generally opposed to living under an illusion. If you’re going to give up self-sufficiency for society, he’d say, at least don’t lie to yourself about what you’re doing. After all, forgetting the trade-offs of a decision will make it impossible for you determine whether or not continuing on your chosen path is still worthwhile.

For another, Nietzsche was a big fan of the ancient Greek philosopher Diogenes, who spurned society and praised self-sufficiency. Nietzsche takes Diogenes as a model for a higher ideal, one that turns its back on city life and laughs at the absurdity in how often social norms are treated as if they were laws of nature rather than artificial constructs. (Diogenes would also laugh at the Stoics, who seemed to think that a life according to nature would be calm and relaxed rather than rough and laborious.)

Such a person would be politically free (insofar as they considered themselves outside the restraints of any government), but also independent and self-sufficient. Thus, in Nietzsche’s view, they would be truly and thoroughly free. It is up to us whether we value this level of freedom, or whether the costs of society are worthwhile. But Nietzsche wants us to be aware of the option—and, of course, he thinks that selecting it is well worth the rewards for those who can manage.

Paradox25's avatar

The only intrinsic value I find in existence is happiness. It is also the intention most people have when they help others too, so that they’ll be happier, even if for a brief period of time. I’ll take oblivion over your example of ‘equality’ or ‘freedom’ any time bud. That is not the type of life I’d want to live, nor the type of individual I’d want to be.

@SavoirFaire I wasn’t aware of what the passage actually meant, since I didn’t know where it came from. Would being a hermit or recluse be Nietzsche’s example of the ultimate type of freedom?

LostInParadise's avatar

It seems to me that Nietzsche is glorifying warriors. If you are not fighting against someone, you are somehow contemptible. Just going about your life, raising a family and earning a living is not good enough. Such people are the equivalent of contented cows spending the day eating grass.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@stanleybmanly It has nothing to do with holding oneself superior to others. In fact, that is precisely the sort of misreading that Nietzsche attempts to diffuse in On the Genealogy of Morals. In Nietzsche’s view (and Diogenes’ view also), the self-sufficient person has no need for rankings of any kind. Strength as internal measure of one’s ability to master oneself, not of one’s ability to overcome others.

@GloPro Homework questions aren’t against the rules.

@Paradox25 I think it depends on why one was a recluse and how one lived that life. There is a difference between running away from society and outgrowing it. Those who run away cannot operate within society. They have no choice but to be recluses. Those who have outgrown society simply leave its trappings behind. Thus they can live outside of society even in the middle of a city.

We might look at the cases of Diogenes and Zarathustra. Diogenes was not a recluse at all; he was a vagabond. Zarathustra, meanwhile, was quite explicitly a hermit (who, at the outset of the story, decides to come down from his mountain and seek out those who might be open to his wisdom). In short, it’s more a state of mind.

The primary danger here, then, is that we will fool ourselves into thinking that we have achieved this state of mind prematurely. I suppose the primary thing to keep in mind is that the struggle is against oneself. If we are still thinking “I am better than society” or “I am wiser than him,” then we’re not there.

@LostInParadise Though Nietzsche uses a lot of warrior metaphors—and clearly values the discipline of military training—his works make it quite clear that what he is most interested in is self-overcoming. The battle is against ourselves. The contented cows are the one’s who have given up on becoming better than they are. As the saying goes: “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.” Nietzsche would agree.

LostInParadise's avatar

@SavoirFaire , How do you interpret the idea of being “prepared to sacrifice humans for one’s cause”? What types of causes is Nietzsche talking about? Is he talking about killing people who stand in one’s way? Is this why Nietzsche opposed Christian morality?

Dan_Lyons's avatar

Your question and subsequent statements have nothing to do with equality nor freedom.

But then I always thought Nietzsche was a little bit full of shit.

sagarpanchal's avatar

Yes for Sure! I Support Equallity

SavoirFaire's avatar

@LostInParadise No, he is not talking about killing people who stand in one’s way. Note that when he says one must be “prepared to sacrifice human beings for one’s cause,” he also says “not excluding oneself.” Nietzsche’s overall message regarding self-overcoming is that it requires us to have a clear idea of what goal or drive is paramount. We all have various interests grabbing for our attention, but to try satisfying them all will result in satisfying none. We must pick something to put in charge. If the goal is independence/self-sufficiency, then we may have to sacrifice other things valuable to us—including our ego.

The metaphor about sacrificing others is about not putting their interests before your goal, which is generally looked down upon from the view of society. It is about not sacrificing your self-sufficiency for the good of others. As usual, Nietzsche doesn’t sugarcoat things: he recognizes that this refusal to entangle oneself in society may have bad consequences for those who are left behind. It may become difficult for them to remain “contented cows” without the help of those strong enough to outgrow society. But such is the cost of freedom—and again, Nietzsche wants us to be aware of what our decisions cost as well as what they procure.

The military metaphor is straightforward: generals put their own soldiers at risk all the time, and they must be willing to sacrifice them for the mission. And if they are good generals, they should put themselves at risk as well. When it comes to war, after all, casualties are the cost of doing business—even though a general’s soldiers are his own people. We are members of society, and those around us are our people. Nevertheless, we may need to leave them behind in order to become independent and self-sufficient. It is a difficult goal to achieve, and it may have require us to completely abandon other things that we value (including particular notions about ourselves that we may have once prized).

Now, I don’t mean to downplay Nietzsche’s use of militaristic rhetoric. It is clear that Nietzsche thinks the instincts and dispositions that are most useful and applicable to war are the same ones needed for overcoming oneself, and he is more fascinated with the realities of combat than most are comfortable with. That said, Nietzsche wasn’t a fan of war itself because he was disdainful of the motivations that human beings have for going to war (nationalism, enslavement, and covetousness all count as vices in his view). For all his illiberalism, Nietzsche was vehemently opposed to national borders (even going so far as to renounce his own citizenship).

As for Christian morality, Nietzsche’s criticisms are many and varied. No single factor can be pointed to as the reason for his opposition to it. Just about every part of his philosophy ties into the critique, however, and we can see at least two aspects of it in the issue we are discussing here. For one, Nietzsche accuses Christianity of being dishonest and hypocritical. For another, he thinks that Christianity causes us to be weak and lose our self-reliance.

The dishonesty can be seen in the meta-point about being aware not just of what our decisions get us, but of what they cost. Nietzsche is constantly pointing out that Christianity asks us to sacrifice life on Earth for life in Heaven, though it obscures this fact by calling its dictates a method of living well. Nietzsche also says that Christianity leads us to devalue our own abilities, calling us worthless and declaring our unending need to rely on others—especially God. This is in opposition to being self-reliant and self-made. What’s that? The Protestant work ethic, which has been used to justify so much economic conservatism and refusal to help others, seems to go against this? Quite so. And that’s one of the many reasons why Nietzsche thinks Christianity is hypocritical.

LostInParadise's avatar

Thanks for your answer. I am having difficulty imagining what causes Nietzsche wants to fight for. He opposes the usual nationalistic and economic causes of war.

I also still don’t see why others have to be sacrificed. It is more like leaving people behind than sacrificing them.

I recall reading that Nietzsche thought that Christian morality is a “slave morality” that promotes weakness. Does Nietzsche favor charity, or does he think the strong should run over the weak? Does Nietzsche oppose stealing and killing, or are those rules just for the timid? What morality, if any, does Nietzsche advocate?

Response moderated (Unhelpful)
Skaggfacemutt's avatar

The quote you included is talking about someone’s perverted definition of freedom, not equality.

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