I’ve finally sussed out how to use Instagram and as is my want have joined several philosophical communities on the blasted thing one of which posted a quote by Nietzsche that set the cat amongst the metaphysical pigeons so to speak.
“There is an old illusion. It is called good and evil.”
The quote was typical of Nietzsche in that it was simple, short and pithy, putting forth the idea that both good and evil are mere fictions. Responses ranged from being wildly dismissive, angry, quoting the work of Victor Frankl and Alekandr Solzhenitsyn, others of a more religious persuasion claimed that goodness was inherent in the universe and that it could be realised by reading The Bible, following God or whatever their own faith directed them to do. One commenter stated that if he raped someone and then cut them up, slowly dismembering their body whilst they were still alive that would be the epitome of evil and he would be an evil being, thus evil is real and not a fiction because he could find it within himself. Another commentator falsely posted that Nietzsche’s work created the Natzi’s before he died of Madness. This is both historically and philosophically ignorant but he felt compelled to post it anyway. It’s at times like these that we should remember the stoic advice of saying nothing when we are not sure, but if compelled to speak we should say very little using the least number of words.
“Let silence be your general rule; or say only what is necessary and in few words.”
Evil comes in many forms, for some people, it’s deeply personal, buried within them as a savage side of their humanity that needs to be repressed, for others it’s built into the very fabric of the cosmos making reality the field of battle for two immensely powerful entities doomed to fight one another until the end of days, mobilising humanity as foot soldiers in a divine war; others put forth the opinion that true evil is a secret and insidious corruptor of the world lurking around every street corner whispering quietly into the ears of all who will hear it seducing them into committing bad acts that not only harm society and themselves but also their soul. For some evil is both personal and impersonal, metaphysical and encoded into the universe that they pessimistically see as the worst of all possible worlds.
The simple Nietzschean truth is this, that the morality of the lion and the gazelle are entirely different, ideas of good and evil are merely that, ideas that occupy the mind of men who have in turn been shaped by their culture that is, in turn, a product of ecology and ultimately evolution. The experience of living can only happen in one place and that is within the mind, this is where value judgments about good and evil are made. The mind is not a real place, it is a product of brain activity and as ephemeral as the light that glows from a lamp. If you switch the lamp off the light vanishes, likewise if you switch the body off, the mind it carries around with it also dissipates, never to be encountered again in this material reality.
Values are mental constructs and do not exist in the wider universe which is made up of atoms and void. Reality does not care if you live or die, are made to suffer by an unjust master or that the person who aggrieved you has escaped justice, that’s because it’s only an assemblage of atoms it is utterly devoid of will and the capacity to care for you in material terms. To put it bluntly, it’s not that the cosmos doesn’t care, it’s simply that it can’t care which is why ideas of good and evil are fictions. A society made up of talking lions would prize hunting as the only ‘good,’ positing that gazelles were made by the gods to give them sport and nourishment placing them as inferior beings in the divine hierarchy. In stark contrast, a society of talking gazelles would define lions as the very epitome of evil. Lions would be thus defined as walking, living, breathing, demons ‘red in tooth and claw,’ agents of hell that feed upon the flesh of all that cross their path. Hence we can see that morality is relative, as well as fictional. There is no such thing as a subatomic particle that carries virtue or meaning to be found in the material realm of atoms and void, reality simply is what it is and needs to be looked directly in the eye for a true understanding of it.
The Will To Power
What we find to be good is that which increases our sense of the will to power, bad is that which diminishes it. This was Nietzsche’s extraordinary insight, that living things were not simply possessed of a will to live, but a will to power making them triumph over their adversaries and their environment. His philosophy recommended that instead of being bestial, cruel, unkind and unloving we should instead express our will to power in acts of kindness, the pursuit of excellence in all of our skills as well as expressing it through artistic endeavours such as music, painting or any creative undertaking that you find to be worthy. As is typical of Nietzche his philosophy around the ‘will to power,’ is the most misunderstood. Thus we should be like Plato and merely consider ignorance to be the ‘root and stem of every evil.’ Human beings might be able to think, to speak and to rationalise but we’re still animals descended from long lines of ancestors that were shaped by their culture, environment and biology into seeing the world from a biologically human perspective.
“Sometimes people don’t want to hear the truth because they don’t want their illusions destroyed”
Thus a true nihilist would have to accept that there is no absolute meaning or morality to be found in the greater universe, that the ‘dreadful,’ deeds of Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Genghis Khan and the likes of Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great are not dreadful in any realm beyond the human mind which is where we make our judgements of value. It feels blasphemous to even say it but Adolf Hitler was simply living his truth expressing his will to power in the most inelegant way possible, conquering lands, subjecting their people to authoritarian rule and systematically killing all of those that got in his way. The universe did nothing to stop him, only the actions of others who were also expressing their own will to power prevented him from dominating the entire world. I remind you that what we find to be good is in accordance with our own will to power; what we find to be bad is that which diminishes it. A foreign dictator wishing to take our lands and enslave our people would diminish our sense of the will to power. In contrast, a foreign leader that is generous to his people who eases their burdens as well as providing foreign aid for other countries enhances his will to power by generating friends, allies and support by showing them the benefits of being on his side making both himself and his country highly influential. Diplomatically speaking soft power that doesn’t rely on guns and violence is the best power because nobody has to die to achieve it. Kindness rarely generates enemies! To be good or evil, nice or nasty is merely to be human which is why both good and evil are fictions as they only exist within yourself and die at the same time that you do.