Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Nietzsche's Virtues

More general comments on Nietzsche’s ideas of virtues after some discussion in passages in Daybreak in recent posts. Concentrating on Daybreak, Gay Science, and Thus Spoke Zarathustra, which Nietzsche declared to be his yes-saying books, I have the following ideas of what positive values Nietzsche looks for, and the virtues that come after morality, or after the morality of good and evil.

Virtues come out of sickness rather than health, at least some of the time. The merit of virtue at its best is that it disrupts normality and universality. Truly individual virtue must seem sick from some perspective, and is a disruption of normal physiological and psychological functioning.

The above point seems to me to refer to difficulties in taking Nietzsche as a completely Aristotelian theorist of the virtues, and in taking Nietzsche as an adaptationist naturalist in his attitude to the origin of the virtues. That is Nietzsche does not take virtues as emerging from a passive reaction of psychology, or physiology, to external circumstances.

Virtue is individuating and intimately connected with strength of character, in its capacity for self-discipline.

The disruption necessary for the emergence of these virtues is likely to at least seem ‘evil’ and to create something dark and impenetrable in individual characters.

The values emerge from selfishness, and selfishness is the prime virtue. A prime virtue that disrupts common virtues, and emphasises individuation.

There is rejection of values associated with the neighbour, sympathy and pity. These are values in which we lose ourselves in orienting ourselves towards others, and subject others to the tyranny of our desire to change them. They reduce individuation and increase conformity.

The superiority of friendship and hospitality to neighbourliness and sympathy or pity.

There is a wish to give and receive, in forms which do not lead to domination, dependence, and co-dependence.

The above is described in terms of sharing beauty and shelter, the taking away the burden of what someone wants to give from the self, the abundance of the self that is so strong it leads to a painful desire to give it away.

Giving as a giving of the self, so that it can be repeated and perceived, taking as generosity because it takes away a burden, distance between individuals which enables individuals to create in a way which is individual and can be shared.

Original post at Barry Stocker's Weblog

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