Wednesday, May 30, 2018

I Think, Therefore I Am… Or Am I? Nietzsche Strikes Again

The past couple weeks I’ve been accompanied by Nietzsche’s Beyond Good & Evil (audiobook) while commuting here and there. Nietzsche is probably one of the most maligned philosophers in history, pigeonholed as either a kook or as the author of the provocative “God is dead” proclamation.

The reality is that the feisty German was an astute observer with quite the sense of humor at times. He loved his mustache, for example, which he gleefully wore like a mask. He also got a kick out of kicking over sacred cows. At least that’s been my take.

In one place he takes aim at Descartes, who after a lengthy attempt to determine whether he existed or not concluded, “I think, therefore, I am.” The declaration, Nietzsche explains, rests on a questionable foundation. That is, do we really think? By way of illustration he notes how thoughts frequently pop into his head out of nowhere. Where do these thoughts come from? Is that really thinking?

It made me think of Martin Luther’s response to a person whose mind is being pestered by evil thoughts. Luther said, “You can’t stop a bird from landing on your head, but you can keep it from building a nest there.”

In other words, in that scenario our thoughts (often) come flitting in from elsewhere like birds or, more annoyingly, mosquitoes.

And yet, my brain is working as I work out how to construct this series of statements to make a point of sorts. To what degree am I thinking and to what degree are associations being assembled by my subconscious or unconscious, thus bypassing real thinking? I dunno. I suppose it’s something to think about.

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10 Nietzsche Epigrams and Interludes*

Some pointed, some pithy, some that make people apoplectic--Nietzsche was famous for his epigrams and aphorisms. 

73a
Many a peacock hides his peacock tail from all eyes--and calls that his pride.

97
What? A great man? I always see only the actor of his own ideal.

98
If we train our conscience, it kisses us while it hurts us.

106
In music the passions enjoy themselves.

120
Sensuality often hastens the growth of love so much that the roots remain weak and are easily torn up.

125
When we have to change our mind about a person, we hold the inconvenience he causes us very much against him.

141
The abdomen is the reason why man does not easily take himself for a god.

161
Poets treat their experiences shamelessly: they exploit them.

166
Even when the mouth lies, the way it looks still tells the truth.

170
Praise is more obtrusive than a reproach.

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Related Links
Notes from a Lecture on Nietzsche
Nietzsche's Concept of Eternal Recurrence

* Extracts from Beyond Good & Evil

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