• frank
    8.6k

    Nietzsche's condemnation of pity is pretty easy to understand. He was concerned about the psychological effects of pity. If I pity you, I lead you to pity yourself. If this self pity is a rejection of "reality" (as Nietzsche uses the term), then it means you're turning away from life instead of embracing life for better or worse. Nietzsche was right: few people are prepared to do that. We're addicted to our self-righteous outrage.
  • Possibility
    2.4k
    Its not so much a question that I misunderstand Nietzsche. I have read leading scholars on Nietzsche who argue that Nietzsche despised compassion and kindness. I think Nietzsche misunderstood Aristotle's Ethics which is not confined to certain social structures and is not eternal, fixed or based on belief in God . Aristotle keeps religion out of his philosophy. Nietzsche was not particularly interested in social issues, he dismissed these in a naive manner as part of a herd mentality. Human beings cannot completely rise above their group or tribe as Nietzsche proposed because we are hardwied to cooperate with one another and follow a common set of values. We don't have absolute freedom as the existentialists thought. In constructing our value systems we have to take into account the society in which we live , our CURRENT social structures , that doesn't mean that we shouldn't work to change them or that we blindly accept all the structures. Jesus was actually a counter cultural figure. He treated women as equals, attacked the hypocrisy of the current religion which used to stone women for adultery.Ross Campbell

    It’s not a question of whether you misunderstood Nietzsche - you seem to have a negative attitude towards Nietzsche based only on other people’s writings about him, rather than what he actually wrote himself. But I do think that many leading scholars on Nietzsche did misunderstand his writings, mainly by trying to define terms he left deliberately ambiguous. I’m just suggesting that reading Nietzsche’s own writings with an open mind (if you can) might give you a slightly different perspective of his approach.

    Social issues are described based on fixed social structures. Nietzsche’s focus was on what relations between social entities look like when you take the structures away. He proposed that we are not ‘hardwired’ to follow an externally imposed set of values, but to relate as social entities in constructing, testing and revising systems and patterns of cooperation. His approach was to look at the relations between people as social entities - rather than the relation between an individual and an imposed social structure - to see how we can develop a more accurate social reality, as these imposed structures are exposed for their hypocrisy and insufficiency.

    Jesus was interpreted as counter-cultural, as was Nietzsche. But neither of them were against the current culture as such - rather, they proposed a way for people to relate to each other, regardless of the current culture, which put them at odds in certain respects.
  • dimosthenis9
    353
    If I pity you, I lead to pity yourself.frank

    I think it says all about Nietzsche's views over this virtues and how people use them. If I pity you, in fact, I don't help you at all at the end! I just give you more excuses as not to help your own self! So that's why Nietzsche was so critical about compassion and pity. At the end do I help indeed the other person if I pity him??Or I just help this "circle" to go on and on forever?

    You hit right on target, for pointing that out.
  • frank
    8.6k
    At the end do I help indeed the other person if I pity him??Or I just help this "circle" to go on and on forever?dimosthenis9

    Right.
  • dimosthenis9
    353
    Is it a ‘selfish act’ to eat that last helping now, to maintain my long-term health, to discard food I don’t need, or to be potentially valued for my generosity?Possibility

    Wel yes. They are indeed at least for me. And when I mean selfish, as to be more specific using the term, I mean what comes out of Ego, I use selfish word same as egoism. If that helps to our dialogue.

    According to Nietzsche, there is no ‘society’ or morality that can define compassion in relation to which all individuals determine or judge themselves and each other.Possibility

    So you think Nietzsche thought compassion and other virtues, since they can be defined specifically, then shouldn't society follow them? And are useless?

    , I am compassionate when I relate to another as if their suffering was as much my concern as theirs.Possibility

    But is that ever possible? Can you actually suffer when you aren't at the same position with the other person? I hear many people say these things and I wonder if I am a bastard that I could never realize that or feel it? For me always seemed to me that other's problem (except family and close friends of course) is just a bite on your dinner plate. The problem comes as thought, you stop a bit, think "oh what a pity. Poor John", and just go on your bite thinking of your own "problems".
    If you do that I really wish I was like you. And that's not ironically at all. I feel guilty sometimes for not feeling like that.
  • Ross
    134

    The real reason Nietzsche was against pity is because he thought it furthered the interests of the underdog. He was thinking especially of Christianity where pity for the unfortunate is a fundamental value of that religion.
    However in everyday life pity is an important value. When my father was dying in a nursing home and I was full of grief. I felt pity for his suffering. This did not lead to him feeling pity , nor was it a "turning away from life" . It was my natural human empathy for seeing a loved one suffering. If I didn't feel any pity or compassion for him I would have been cold and unfeeling towards him and he may have suffered more if I hadn't shown the care I did. The reason I visited him for 6 years several times per week is not out of a sense of duty but because I felt compassion and love and kindness for him, the very virtues , (if Im not mistaken) Nietzsche despised. He had an agenda he wanted to attack the values of Christianity, and all the secular ethical systems which he claimed were based on Christianity. But he fails in my opinion, to understand that these ancient value systems such as Christianity, Buddhism, Stoicism are based on the ordinary everyday real life experiences of ordinary people, not dreamt up inside the head of one academic sitting in his ivory tower who relishes attacking every single tradition of western thought and substituting in it's place some abstract notion of some Will to power and some mythical concept of a superman.
  • Ross
    134

    I'm afraid I have to disagree that "Jesus and Nietzsche were not against the current culture. Both figures were very radical and they attacked many aspects of their current culture and Jesus was executed for doing so. Nietzsche , and I think I'm correct in this-. attacked the whole edifice and tradition of western thought going back to Socrates. How radical can you get. I'm not anti Nietzsche, I think he was a profound and original thinker and there is a grain of truth in his view of Christianity as a slave morality. But I think his psychological analysis is flawed in certain aspects. He, unlike modern psychologists or even thinkers like Aristotle, did not base his ideas on observation and empirical research, hard evidence. Anyone , in my opinion, who is arguing for or proposing philosophical or psychological ideas without basing them on empirical evidence is not doing proper philosophy. That's why some academics don't regard Nietzsche as a philosopher but as a writer, more akin to a novelist or poet who can express him/herself in an ambiguous way. But in that case then what they're saying is just their opinion. Philosophy in my opinion should not be conducted in this way. It should be based on reasoned argument, evidence and observation.
  • frank
    8.6k
    This did not lead to him feeling pity , nor was it a "turning away from life"Ross Campbell

    Then it wasn't what Nietzsche was talking about. But then, it wasn't really a virtue, was it? You felt sorrow for your pending loss, you felt grief because your father was in pain. There's nothing particularly laudable about that. It's just part of being human.
  • Ross
    134

    I'm afraid I disagree. Compassion and kindness are not just feelings , they are, as Aristotle would say excellences of Character but only if they are accompanied by kind actions. Then they become virtues. Virtues are as Aristotle says a matter of feeling + action. And cultivating these feelings is done by doing kind actions. And the more one does these the kinder the person becomes. I think most people today if you asked them would like to mix with kind people or friends and avoid unkind people. Anyway as you can probably gather I'm a devotee of Stoic and Buddhist philosophy , without the religious component. For me Nietzsche does not provide any coherent guidelines to live my life by, only thought provoking ideas and critiques of other philosophers.
  • frank
    8.6k
    'm afraid I disagree.Ross Campbell

    So you give yourself a big pat on the back for feeling pity for your father? You expect others to? Really?
  • Alkis Piskas
    398
    Topic: Nietzsche's condemnation of the virtues of kindness, Pity and compassion

    I think Nietzsche was right. Mercy is a weakness not a virtue.Gregory

    First of all, "compassion" and "mercy" are two different things. Look them up. Compassion involves "showing concern". Mercy involves "forgiveness".

    Anyway, since you brought up "mercy" ... Have you heard about merciless people? They only seek punishment. They have nothing to do with Nietzsche's "superhuman". In fact, the opposite: they are weak. They are coward, resentful, ruthless, unforgiving, even fascists ... People like them are despised in any society.

    So, I believe you got it all wrong: Showing mercy (forgiveness) needs strength in most occasions. It indicates sanity and rationality. On the contrary, "ruthlessness" indicates weakness, insanity and irrationality. Nietzsche would never support such human attributes!
  • Gregory
    3.8k


    I was talking about letting people free when they deserve a punishment. Such is not good for anyone. Concern and kindness is good, but many Christians believe God let's sinners off the hook out of pure mercy. Mercy like that is contrary to justice
  • Possibility
    2.4k
    So you think Nietzsche thought compassion and other virtues, since they can be defined specifically, then shouldn't society follow them? And are useless?dimosthenis9

    Nietzsche thought his contemporary social structures - which defined compassion and other virtues by the Christian notion of self-denial - had lost their foundations, and with them any authority to impose such definitions without question. Without these foundations, ‘compassion’ as defined is no virtue in itself, but a contradiction: an expression of pity toward the suffering of others that merely exploits this negative experience to enhance one’s own social value. His criticism is not against genuine compassion as we understand it now, separate from religious context, but against this Christian notion of pity, derived from the word ‘piety’, which is an obedience that maintains current social structures.

    But is that ever possible? Can you actually suffer when you aren't at the same position with the other person? I hear many people say these things and I wonder if I am a bastard that I could never realize that or feel it? For me always seemed to me that other's problem (except family and close friends of course) is just a bite on your dinner plate. The problem comes as thought, you stop a bit, think "oh what a pity. Poor John", and just go on your bite thinking of your own "problems".
    If you do that I really wish I was like you. And that's not ironically at all. I feel guilty sometimes for not feeling like that.
    dimosthenis9

    Can you imagine yourself in the same position as the other person? I’m not talking about actual, but potential suffering - a simulation of affect. Our dependence on social structures allows us to draw the line at family and close friends, but it’s an arbitrary line that enables us to consolidate a personal and a public concept of ‘self’ in relation to potential, value and significance. Outside of these family and close friends, your sense of value appears to be determined externally by social and cultural structures. In Nietzsche’s experience, those structures included relations to family and close friends - and they were crumbling, insufficient to account for the reality of social experience. He explored this idea of the individual as a socially variable entity in relation to others, rather than an object in relation to society.

    If you look closely at your relations with family and close friends, you may recognise this experience of compassion - of being able to experience potential suffering by imagining yourself in the same position, with a more intimate understanding of this ‘other’ position than you would have with someone outside of your inner circle of ‘me and mine’. The idea of compassion I’m talking about can be accomplished by striving to widen your circle, one person at a time. By questioning your own justification for identifying someone as ‘other’. But eventually this awareness challenges your consolidation of ‘self’ as something you control in relation to ‘society’. Then Nietzsche’s idea - that there is no objective social reality, only socially variable entities who continually construct and reconstruct both ‘self’ and ‘society’ in how they relate to each other at the level of potential, value and significance - starts to make more sense.

    Don’t get me wrong - I’m not always compassionate or kind. It takes time, effort and attention to include others in our circle, and very often we come up short, especially when we’re focused primarily on ourselves. I don’t think it helps us to feel guilty, though. It helps me to remember that the more I am aware, connected and collaborating with others, the greater my capacity to be more aware, connected and collaborative with others, etc. The more we ignore, isolate and exclude, the less opportunities for others to be compassionate and kind to us when we most need it.
  • Possibility
    2.4k
    I'm afraid I have to disagree that "Jesus and Nietzsche were not against the current culture. Both figures were very radical and they attacked many aspects of their current culture and Jesus was executed for doing so. Nietzsche , and I think I'm correct in this-. attacked the whole edifice and tradition of western thought going back to Socrates. How radical can you get.Ross Campbell

    Both demonstrated that aspects of the current culture had already lost its authority to some extent, and pointed to a new way of framing experience that addressed these inaccuracies. This was interpreted as an attack against the culture as a whole.

    I'm not anti Nietzsche, I think he was a profound and original thinker and there is a grain of truth in his view of Christianity as a slave morality. But I think his psychological analysis is flawed in certain aspects. He, unlike modern psychologists or even thinkers like Aristotle, did not base his ideas on observation and empirical research, hard evidence. Anyone , in my opinion, who is arguing for or proposing philosophical or psychological ideas without basing them on empirical evidence is not doing proper philosophy. That's why some academics don't regard Nietzsche as a philosopher but as a writer, more akin to a novelist or poet who can express him/herself in an ambiguous way. But in that case then what they're saying is just their opinion. Philosophy in my opinion should not be conducted in this way. It should be based on reasoned argument, evidence and observation.Ross Campbell

    Fair enough - in my opinion, it often takes someone like Nietzsche to speculate and raise the questions that direct philosophical attention and effort towards new, clearer and more accurate reasoning, evidence and observations. In that sense I consider Nietzsche to present a philosophical approach or process, rather than a philosophy as such. Rephrasing key questions or proposing new, radical viewpoints to stimulate philosophical thought in new directions is still part of doing philosophy, even if it isn’t a philosophy.
  • Alkis Piskas
    398
    I was talking about letting people free when they deserve a punishment.Gregory

    I see. But this is not about mercy. It has rather to do with justice. Then of course, one should be punished when he has done harm. This is mainly the task of courts, committees, etc. However, even them consider various factors regarding a person before punishing him: prior honest life, honest repentance, etc.

    Again, showing mercy is not a sign of weakness. The one who is weak is the person who asks mercy (instead of accepting the consequences of his actions). Isn't that so?
  • Ross
    134

    I wonder would Nietzsche agree with you that he is not presenting a philosophy. He's doing more than just raise questions or proposing new viewpoints. He's propounding various notions such as the Will to power and the Superman. Is he trying to use rational argument and logic or emotional reasoning. Here's a quote from Nietzsche.
    "Is it not better to fall into the hands of a murderer, than into the dreams of a lustful woman?”
    Now that looks like emotional reasoning to me. His clever use of aphorisms and metaphors makes him , in my opinion , no more than a poet, rather than a serious philosopher. Its provocative and sensational nature also makes it very attractive , hence his cult like status amongst many people. Other existentialists like Sartre conveyed their philosophy in novels and plays, but Sartre in Being and Nothingness uses proper rational argument. But I don't find that anywhere in Nietzsche's thought. Kierkegaard employs irony and narrative techniques in his works, but unlike Nietzsche they are deliberately ambiguous. It's clear what his ideas are. Tell me another famous thinker apart from Nietzsche whose philosophy is full of ambiguity.
  • dimosthenis9
    353
    His criticism is not against genuine compassion as we understand it now, separate from religious context,Possibility

    Well I doubt about that, but I get your point now.

    I’m not talking about actual, but potential sufferingPossibility

    That's the thing that makes me more skeptical about. It's just potential. When you don't suffer yourself it's always potential...

    He explored this idea of the individual as a socially variable entity in relation to others, ratPossibility

    Imo Nietzsche focused on person as individual and what he personally can do, and not at all in relation to all ready collapsed (in his eyes) societies.

    Then Nietzsche’s idea - that there is no objective social reality, only socially variable entities who continually construct and reconstruct both ‘self’ and ‘society’Possibility

    But I think Nietzsche's road to that society transformation comes mostly from personal change and spiritual development. Through that progression you change societies also. You can't change anything to a society if you don't change individuals first. If individuals aren't ready for change, you will never achieve anything.

    , the less opportunities for others to be compassionate and kind to us when we most need it.Possibility

    But that's the thing. Since I don't show much compassion to others (except close friends and family). I expect NO compassion from others either, when I need it most. It's only fair for me. I wouldn't complain about others at all! It's just fine.
  • Possibility
    2.4k
    I wonder would Nietzsche agree with you that he is not presenting a philosophy. He's doing more than just raise questions or proposing new viewpoints. He's propounding various notions such as the Will to power and the Superman. Is he trying to use rational argument and logic or emotional reasoning. Here's a quote from Nietzsche.
    "Is it not better to fall into the hands of a murderer, than into the dreams of a lustful woman?”
    Now that looks like emotional reasoning to me. His clever use of aphorisms and metaphors makes him , in my opinion , no more than a poet, rather than a serious philosopher. Its provocative and sensational nature also makes it very attractive , hence his cult like status amongst many people. Other existentialists like Sartre conveyed their philosophy in novels and plays, but Sartre in Being and Nothingness uses proper rational argument. But I don't find that anywhere in Nietzsche's thought. Kierkegaard employs irony and narrative techniques in his works, but unlike Nietzsche they are deliberately ambiguous. It's clear what his ideas are. Tell me another famous thinker apart from Nietzsche whose philosophy is full of ambiguity.
    Ross Campbell

    Thus Spake Zarathustra is a piece of fiction: a passionate rendering of his philosophical approach, and isn’t written as rational argument, but as expression. As Zarathustra says, “They understand me not. I am not the mouth for these ears.” Its fictional, poetic style is a way around the difficulties of language in relation to logic, and for all its ambiguity, his writing continues to resonate with modern readers in a way that only fiction or religious texts can. It’s an imperfect approach, and unsatisfying for those looking for definitive answers with which to prop up failing social structures. He suggests a way forward, but it isn’t what we’re looking for.

    Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching is another example of philosophical writing whose deliberate ambiguity enables it to stand the test of time. It is in relating to the text in a particular way that we approach an understanding of the reality it presents. In my view, the TTC does a better job of this as a timeless work, mainly because the Chinese language lends itself to a more logical structure of ideas. It is our English translations that muddy the waters, allowing embedded affect to confuse the structure.

    The idea that philosophy must consist of ‘proper rational argument’ is a common myopia that I find surprising, given the ambiguity of human experience. I recognise the merits of logic, but it only gets us so far. Language, at the end of the day, is an abstraction.
  • Ross
    134

    I completely agree that logic and rational argument is limited in conveyed the human condition. That's why we have had art, literature , religion , poetry and literary philosophy since Plato's dialogues. But my point is that the ideas presented in these narratives should be clear, just as Plato's ideas in his dialogues are clear, not ambiguous, as are the ideas in Sartre's and Camus,s novels and Shakespeares philosophical plays, and Dostoevskys philosophical novels. What is the point of conveying a set of ideas in ones fiction if the reader doesn't know what to make of, how to interpret them. Therefore in my opinion the likes of Plato and the above mentioned figures are more successful thinkers than Nietzsche. Just because he is popular doesn't mean he is an excellent thinker. The Bible and Marx are amongst the most popular works or figures of the 20th century but many people including myself think they're cloud Cuckooland.
  • Gregory
    3.8k


    Maybe but Nietzsche has some good points and also his criticism need to be taken with a grain of salt. Mostly I take psychological points from his writing as does Jordan Peterson
  • Tom Storm
    2k
    Mostly I take psychological points from his writing as does Jordan PetersonGregory

    Like most putative Christians, Peterson celebrates Nietzsche only because he can be used to support the proposition that atheism leads to Hitler. It's ironic how often Christians have reached for Nietzsche to embolden similar notions - FN's probably done more for the apologist's anti-atheism crusades than any other thinker.
  • frank
    8.6k
    FN's probably done more for the apologist's anti-atheism crusades than any other thinkerTom Storm

    I think if he'd spent more time writing like a normal person instead of a raving maniac, his opponents would have less to work with.
  • Alkis Piskas
    398

    Maybe but Nietzsche has some good points and also his criticism need to be taken with a grain of salt. Mostly I take psychological points from his writing as does Jordan PetersonGregory

    The statement I commented on was "Mercy is a weakness not a virtue". I don't remember Nietzsche's views on morality nor do I intend to study again his work just for that!
  • Gregory
    3.8k


    Mercy takes justice out of account
  • Ross
    134

    Nietzsche writes in a series of aphorisms and metaphors which are often ambiguous. How does one define philosophy. If it is a not a discipline using rational argument or logic or some coherent set of ideas expressed in fiction as in Plato's dialogues then how do you distinguish genuine philosophy from pseudo philosophy. Is Nietzsche's ambiguous style genuine Philosophical thinking?
  • Christoffer
    834
    His thinking based on a series of aphorisms and metaphors seems to lack a logical rigour of thought. I thought the definition of philosophy was supposed to be logical or rational argument.Ross Campbell

    In my opinion compassion which is at the heart of Christian and Buddhist ethics is what brings people together, without it the world would be a very cold place.Ross Campbell

    What is you're point of view in this matter? You criticize Nietzsche's writings for not being philosophically rooted in logic and rationality, but you praise Christianity and Buddhism for just being, without any logic or rationality behind it.

    Nietzsche's writings need the context of the full text to reach full understanding. The same goes for any other philosopher who wrote in the same way. Both Satre and Camus can be criticized in the same manner. The problem is that you praise Christianity and Buddhism for using observation of people as a foundation for their teachings. Actually, they don't. They built their virtue's foundation on adjustments to fit the narrative they work under. True observation is what Nietsche and the rest of all prose writing philosophers did in order to deconstruct human behavior.

    I think you are stuck with a simplified idea about what Nietsche is really saying, and you use it as a foundation for criticizing the whole of his writing. The Nazis didn't use Nietsche's writings, they used most of the corrupted version of his unfinished work by his Nazi-fangirl zealot sister.

    Nietsche is the father of most of 20th-century philosophy, the way we put religion aside and examine human behavior and the universe without the shackles of tradition and institutionalized faith. Not recognizing the importance of his work is a failure to understand the history of philosophy and the key figures of its evolution. It's like saying Einstein isn't important for modern physics.

    Is Nietzsche's ambiguous style genuine Philosophical thinking?Ross Campbell

    Arguments are in there. There are ways to deconstruct prose philosophical writing, but people aren't educated enough to do it, so they dismiss it instead.
  • dimosthenis9
    353
    Nietzsche writes in a series of aphorisms and metaphors which are often ambiguousRoss Campbell

    But that's the point. Nietzsche didn't care everyone to understand him. He didn't have any heroic passion to save the world as other philosophers . He was talking to a specific type of people who could feel him. And that has nothing to do with elitism nonsense, that his opponents accusing him.Nothing at all. With some writers it's better to try mostly to feel them, and not so much to try understand every word.
  • Tom Storm
    2k
    Thus Spake Zarathustra is a piece of fiction: a passionate rendering of his philosophical approach, and isn’t written as rational argument, but as expression. As Zarathustra says, “They understand me not. I am not the mouth for these ears.” Its fictional, poetic style is a way around the difficulties of language in relation to logic, and for all its ambiguity, his writing continues to resonate with modern readers in a way that only fiction or religious texts can. It’s an imperfect approach, and unsatisfying for those looking for definitive answers with which to prop up failing social structures. He suggests a way forward, but it isn’t what we’re looking for.Possibility

    It's also for some readers (me, anyway), a turgid, often dull book that makes you think of shopping lists, washing the car, clipping the dog's fur - anything to get away from a needy, monomaniacal polemicist. I can take Human, All Too Human and the Gay Science, but not TSZ.

    With some writers it's better to try mostly to feel them, and not so much to try understand every word.dimosthenis9

    I'm not really one for feeling up writers. If you're saying that FN isn't interested in being understood - that might be accurate and why I don't feel a passion for his work. He's certainly the source of some fantastically vivid aphorisms and quips, but sometimes to me FN just seems to be a Germanic and rather truculent version of Oscar Wilde.
  • Possibility
    2.4k
    That's the thing that makes me more skeptical about. It's just potential. When you don't suffer yourself it's always potential...dimosthenis9

    Potential is just the beginning, and it’s a necessary aspect of an intentional act. Perceiving our own potential to suffer, and being aware of the difference between the suffering of another and our present condition, is where compassion starts. How we respond to that awareness is the difference between acts of pity and compassion. To pity is to feel the difference and find ways to justify it, based on social structures or assumptions (‘I/they probably deserve it’). To act with compassion is to feel this difference and find ways that our present condition affords us to share in their suffering - increasing awareness, connection and collaboration.

    Nietzsche believes we act with compassion only because we believe that suffering is bad, and he argues that suffering should be recognised instead as part of the human condition. Experiencing suffering is beneficial, even necessary to some extent in order to live. In my view, this perspective renders an act of compassion ‘bad’ (potentially harmful) only when defined by an intention to eliminate suffering.

    When the notion of ‘compassion’ is returned to its original etymology (‘suffering with’), and understood in terms of a relation between social entities, then we recognise it as motivated by a natural desire to connect and collaborate, to form social structures. We act with compassion because we acknowledge that suffering, as part of the human condition, is to be shared rather than avoided or eliminated.
  • dimosthenis9
    353
    If you're saying that FN isn't interested in being understood - that might be accurate and why I don't feel a passion for his work. He's certainly the source of some fantastically vivid aphorisms and quips, but sometimes to me FN just seems to be a Germanic and rather truculent version of Oscar Wilde.Tom Storm

    It's not a matter of right or wrong. It's just matter of taste. I have heard many people saying the same for Nietzsche as what you mentioned and I can't blame them, just cause I like him.
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