“Acknowledgement of the death of God is a bomb that blows up many things, not just oppressive traditionalism, but also values like compassion and the equality of human dignity on which support for a tolerant liberal political order is based. This then is the Nietzschean dead end from which Western philosophy has still not emerged.” Francis Fukayama, New York Times Review of Books, April 11, 2010.
Friedrich Nietzsche was a savant intellectual, a genius learner, a tenured Classics professor by age 24, a prodigy of learning what is already known.
One thinks of Joseph Knecht, the character who plays the Glass Bead Game in the Hermann Hesse sci-fi novel about academia: Magister Ludi. In this book, a game is played by special minds in which all forms of art and knowledge are codified into a form of a musical/logical/lexical informatic with which the players competitively uncover new syntheses of insight. Hesse may have had Nietzsche in mind. Nietzsche was an academic philosopher, his entire life was reading, writing and thinking. He never married or had children. He came to believe that humans should be ruled by . . . . academic philosophers. For Nietzsche, an individual’s philosophical journey was to be his and everyone’s God. He wrote theatrically, with anger, condemnation, and provocation, if not hysteria.
Nietzsche scorned utilitarian and bourgeois morality. He saw human nature as Darwinian. He loved to describe the ‘will to power’ hidden in the actions of history, a motivation he found to be greater than survival. Thinking Men take us to something greater, he says, do not resist this. The strong should triumph. Exceptional people (like him) should flourish. Good versus evil is the rationalization of the weak. The notion of universal objective truth will be found wrong, and man will come to name his own truth. God is dead, and the Ubermensch, the Superman, will arise.
Nietzsche himself was continually sickly, and suffered increasing mental imbalance. His final breakdown is reported to have occurred after he witnessed the whipping of a horse. He supposedly then ran to the horse to try to protect it, throwing his arms around its neck, and then collapsed into incoherence.
Mania with psychosis is strongly suggested. His writing and thought is megalomaniacal, racing, and grandiose. He came to see inorganic matter as having ‘motivation’. Thinking has magical power, intuition is supernatural.
In Nietzschean thought there are the inklings of Freudianism, fascism, communism, post modernism, and evolutionary psychology. He provides flamboyant cover for academic chauvinism and condescension, for intellectual elitism, for the cult of the Great Leader.
Academics love him to this day. For Cornel West, and many others, Neitzsche’s works are the most treasured. For those that gravitate to deconstruction, always parsing to uncover and reject what is wrong, Nietzsche invites them along, into tangles of creativity and corruption, idealism and nihilism. We have Francis Fukayama’s dead end.