In this episode, I'm chatting with my friend Karl Nord about Ayn Rand's Romantic Manifesto, Nietzsche's Use and Abuse of History for Life, whether H.P. Lovecraft's characters have volition, the use of deus ex machina in Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn series, the depressing spirit of Von Trier films, morality in art and as art, and the alchemical power of aligning the artistic and the political.
More episodes from "The Nietzsche Podcast"
Untimely Reflections #10: Gabriel Martínez - Antinatalism & Pessimism
1:15:54By popular demand, I’ve finally had a conversation with an antinatalist. Gabriel and I discussed the arguments for antinatalism, the pessimistic assessment of life on which those arguments are based, and the difference between continuing life versus bringing it forth. I threw Gabriel some curveballs about transhumanism and suicide machines towards the end of the talk, and furthermore we brought in a few references to Twilight Zone and Black Mirror. Contrary to the stereotypical depiction of an antinatalist, I found my guest this week to be a pleasant conversation partner and overall a delightful guest. I’m not convinced of the truth of antinatalism, but the conversation was far more interesting than I’d anticipated. Hope you all enjoy it, and that this episode of Untimely Reflections makes your life just a little bit more worthwhile in the grand scheme of the cosmos. Cheers!
Untimely Reflections #9 - Mynaa Miesnowan & Keegan chat at Sagebrush
1:43:09On a cold, rainy afternoon this past November, Mynaa Miesnowan and I met up at a little bar in Austin, Texas called Sagebrush. I'm a lifelong South Austinite and Sagebrush is a newer bar that exists within a very, very old building, that was a country & western dancehall back in the 1960's. The modern decor reminds of a Texas bar in a Rodriguez or Tarantino film, with a backlit landscape of a starry desert lining the walls. Mynaa and I grabbed a beer and made our way around back, even though everything was damp. We walked around and talked for awhile, beneath the gradiants of white and gray dimly hovering above the neighborhood that seemed at once sleepy and busy - as the bar had only just opened and there was literally no one else there, owing to the rain & the Thanksgiving holiday, but the traffic was picking up outside as everyone rushed to get home. Eventually, we dried off some chairs and began recording a podcast. Although we met up only for a brief time, it was great that we got to have this conversation. It was so neat to meet someone that I met through the podcast, in person this time. We talked about the direction of our society & culture, and the separation of our cultural ideas from any kind of physical or biological reality, which happens to be Nietzsche's definition of decadence. We wondered whether Schopenhauer's dad really committed suicide, and whether Nietzsche sincerely believed in Christianity as a youth. We considered what it means to pass through many convictions, and talked about my own history with libertarian thought. We compared the current direction of society to both 1984 & Brave New World. We both wore our love of Nietzsche on our sleeve and mostly just let the conversation go wherever it took us. By far the least rigorous episode of the entire podcast, and one of my favorites.
24: The Tragedy Begins
1:07:30We can pinpoint the end of an era in Nietzsche’s philosophy precisely at Book IV of the Gay Science. This is where Nietzsche marks off a new chapter in his life. He begins the book with the aphorism, "For the New Year", and there is a celebration of the month of January, as the beginning of the year – a celebration of newness, of rejuvenation. In a letter to Franz Overbeck, on September 9th, of that year, still in 1882, he wrote: "If you have read 'Sanctus Januarius', you will have noticed that I have already come to a turning point. Everything lies new before me, and it will not be long before I am able to see the frightening face of my life’s future task." In this episode, the final show of season one, we examine this self-described turning point in Nietzsche's life & work, as a means of understanding Nietzsche's desire to eternally justify and elevate human life. While we have touched on this theme throughout the season, I think the best way to shift our focus from his moral project to his "life-problem" is to examine the period in his life where he felt he'd hit a breakthrough in confronting this task. It's been a crazy six months; thank you to all of our listeners! Disputing the Lou Salome marriage proposal story: https://paradoxoftheday.com/friedrich-nietzsche-and-lou-von-salome-the-myth-of-marriage-proposals/ My own essay, "Disputing the Three Periods of Nietzsche's Writing", where I criticize the whole idea of Zarathustra being a "turning point" (it's worth noting that the sense in which Nietzsche means it's a turning point, relevant to this episode, I think is perfectly valid, but I just thought I'd include this here): https://paradoxoftheday.com/friedrich-nietzsche-and-lou-von-salome-the-myth-of-marriage-proposals/ INCIPIT TRAGOEDIA
23: The Antichrist, part 2: An Instinctual Hatred of Reality
1:22:09In the second part of our deep dive into The Antichrist, we tear into the meat of the text: the scathing, uncompromising attack of Christianity. Unlike most critics of the Christian religion, Nietzsche devotes very little time to the refutation of the arguments for Christianity's truth, or the supposed evidence for the historicity of Jesus. Instead, Nietzsche is laser-focused on the effect of the Christian doctrine of pity, and its character as a totally life-denying force. Jesus, for Nietzsche, is the ultimate life-denying figure: the apotheosis of pity. Through his torture and death at teh hands of the Romans, which he does not resist, he became a mimetic example for the spread of this moral contagion. "Resist not evil" is, in Nietzsche's argument, the entire key to the doctrine of the gospels, and the explanation Jesus' profound difference from other gods - even from the God of the Old Testament. Because he was so extraordinary, even the later Christians never measured up to Jesus' complete defiance of the natural world. "An instinctual hatred of reality" is how Nietzsche describes Jesus. Rather than a "hero", Jesus does not fight, resist, or oppose. He lives in the immanent knowledge of his salvation. "The kingdom of heaven is within you". The later message that was spread was a corruption of this way of life only ever attained to by Jesus. The effect that this religion of pity had on the hearts of the cruel, European barbarians, meanwhile, was to harness their cruelty and turn it inward. With the rejection of all value in the external world, only the internal has meaning. With no external fights, the only fight of any importance becomes the fight against one's own sin. This fight endlessly multiplies the suffering of the world and makes it ever more questionable and worthy of denial: the follower of Christ yearns for some release to this tension, some relief from the endless suffering he lives within. As bleak as all of this sounds, contained in this message, Nietzsche's own "gospel" as it were, or good news, is that if pity is only added on to life, ersatz - that means it is possible that it can be removed. Through this revaluation, maybe we can finally be free of the weakness that has crippled the once strong and beautiful psyche of humanity.
22: The Antichrist, part 1: An Attempt at the Revaluation of Values
1:28:24The Antichrist (1888) is one of the last books Nietzsche wrote before losing his sanity the next year. It serves as the culmination of a decade or more of Nietzsche's thoughts on morality, Christianity, and the need for a revaluation of values. This project - of finding or defining a new set of values by which man could live - was something about which Nietzsche was deeply ambivalent. On the one hand, some sort of moral direction is required for ascending life. It is essential that the philosophers of the future find some means of pushing their way through the stage of relativism, or "active nihilism". But such a project would be to ignore the contingency of all our moral beliefs; worse yet, by outlining a new values-structure, Nietzsche will have to think and work systematically. But Nietzsche's thinking is by its nature anti-systematic. As a result, numerous contradictions come to the forefront in his philosophical outlook, not all of which are neatly resolved. However, what we find as key to understanding the work is the opposition we discussed in the previous episode: of Dionysus v/s The Crucified One. The opposition is between the Dionysian morality of which gives a rough sketch, based on life, overcoming and will to power, and the Christian morality which is defined negatively and as the decline of all of these things. He uses this opposition to illuminate the true nature of the Christian religion and to argue for the values that he finds to be badly needed by the modern man. In the course of this moral revaluation, Nietzsche gives a theory of decadence: how empires behave during their decline and collapse. His various considerations lead him to the conclusion that all of the most cherished productions of our society, our highest values, our human ideals, art, philosophy, music, education, and our whole morality - are products of decadence, and thus of weakness. He thus calls into question the value of abstract thinking, and indeed the value of our faculty for conscious thought. Hilary Putnam on Quine and Ontology: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AhHIVEN839s
Untimely Reflections #8: Hans-Georg Moeller (Carefree Wandering) - Profilicity & Erscheinung
1:02:26Carefree Wandering is my favorite Youtube channel that currently produces philosophical content, making Hans-Georg Moeller a very special guest on the Nietzsche Podcast. Our conversation involved many of the topics of his videos, which I of course wanted to ask him about. But overall, I think we presented a relatively coherent procession of ideas. We discuss Professor Moeller's background in Chinese philosophy, and the similarities between Heraclitus and some of the Daoist philosophers. As both Hegel and Nietzsche were influenced by Heraclitus, we can see a similar thread running through the ideas of both. Moeller credits this to Nietzsche writing in the wake of the Hegelian turn in philosophy, towards the emancipation of appearances. In German, the word erscheinung (appearance) has a more ambivalent meaning than its equivalent in English, because the German word includes the connotation of "shining". In the approach of Heraclitus, Hegel, and Nietzsche, it is through appearance that the world "comes into being". The latter half of the discussion involves the concept of Profilicity, which Hans-Georg Moeller and Paul J. D'Ambrosio developed in their book, "You and Your Profile: Identity after Authenticity". The central idea is that there have been three ways throughout history that people have created identities for themselves: sincerity, authenticity, and profilicity, which is a relatively new innovation. Rather than forging an identity through being "authentic, true selves", people now forge identities by curating a public profile. You can find the book here from Columbia University Press (or on Amazon): https://cup.columbia.edu/book/you-and-your-profile/9780231196017 Carefree Wandering youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCnEuIogVV2Mv6Q1a3nHIRsQ (There was some minor glitching, probably a combination of my connection not behaving, but it's minimal. I'm improving things all the time, figuring out how to cut down on this is just the next hurdle to get over.)
21: A Pessimism of Strength - Dionysus v/s The Crucified
1:03:17This is the final episode of our series on Schopenhauer, and the episode where we will finally draw some general conclusions, not merely about Schopenhauer’s philosophy or his life, or how he influenced Nietzsche - but rather about Nietzsche’s philosophical project itself and how Schopenhauer helped him discover the true opposition at the heart of his work. Nietzsche has been called a romantic during his early period, owing to the influence of Schopenhauer and Wagner. Nietzsche has also been called a pessimist, because of his cynicism about our will to truth, for example, his critiques of morality, and his predictions of the collapse of our values structures in the wake of the death of God and thus the rejection of a divine origin or teleology for man. In this episode, we’re looking at writings from 1886 and 1887, where Nietzsche looks back on his intellectual development , and tells us in his own words how he grew to differ from the romantic pessimism of his influences. Through this understanding of his fundamental differences with Wagner and Schopenhauer, Nietzsche gained a clear idea of that which he opposed in current society, and that which he felt was needed or lacking. His discovery is another useful skeleton key for his work: the Dionysian as the life-giving spirit of transformation that man can discover by again spiritualizing the animal drives, and all that is Christian as the symbol of the denial of life and the turn towards nihilism. Through the formula of Dionysus v/s the Crucified, Nietzsche discovered what Schopenhauer lacked, and what his own task was in philosophy: to search for “a pessimism of strength” that could harness the penetrating, heroic honesty that Schopenhauer modeled, and put it into the service of life.
Untimely Reflections #7: Paul Katsafanas - Nietzschean Constitutivism
1:15:05This time, I'm having a conversation with Paul Katsafanas, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Boston University. He is the author of Nietzschean Constitutivism, an analytical approach to Nietzsche's ethics. This is the primary focus of our conversation, though I also talked to Professor Katfasanas about changes in the analytical/continental divide, his take on my own fictionalist approach to metaphysics, and the state of philosophy in 2021. I found Paul to have a wealth of insights into Nietzsche's work which were stated with utter clarity and directness. Katsafanas' moral constitutivism, based on Nietzsche, stands in opposition to the work of Kantian constitutivists such as Christine Korsgaard and David Velleman. Katsafanas argues that the Nietzschean theory of meta-ethics, based on will to power, more coherently explains human action than the Kantian insistence on universalization and adherence to rational principles. Nietzschean constitutivism includes the unconscious and habitual side of man, not just his deliberating, rational side. There was some glitching on his end but I think it was just my own poor connection. Or maybe this is just an inevitability of recording on Zoom from far-flung parts of the country.
20: Schopenhauer as Educator
1:24:22We begin to answer the question as to what Nietzsche saw in Schopenhauer, mostly in Nietzsche's own words. But the answer is not so simple as Nietzsche simply listing off a few ideas or character traits that he liked. Rather, Schopenhauer is held up alongside Rousseau and Goethe as an "image of man" to reveal to mankind how we might be elevated beyond the merely animal. All three are among those who have channeled genius, the "rarest specimens" of mankind who make up the extraordinary examples of artists, saints and philosophers who have existed throughout the ages. Nietzsche finds, in Schopenhauer, the timeless symbol of the solitary thinker. Schopenhauer was independent and uncompromising in both his philosophical convictions and in his personality. Like Heraclitus, he looks deep within himself and rejects all that is superficial and external with a skepticism like an all-devouring fire. Unlike the "savants" - the scholars and intellectuals to whom knowledge is a series of techniques or a discipline, which is studied to advance oneself in a career - the solitary genius does not know what dispassionate knowledge is, and is compelled to live out his philosophy through action. How a philosopher's example might inform our life and actions - in other words, how it might be educative - is of key importance to Nietzsche. A true cultural and philosophical education is something he thinks is totally lacking in his own age (this holds true today as well). The educative example of Schopenhauer was a personal inspiration to Nietzsche, in helping to motivate him to eventually pursue a life of solitude. But, more importantly, the genius who is the end and the advancement of culture solved a lingering problem in Nietzsche's philosophy: how to make mankind transcendentally valuable if mankind is no different from the rest of the animals. He writes that nature made its single leap in the great people who become artists, saints and philosophers. As to how Schopenhauer contrasts with Goethe and Rousseau... you'll just have to listen and find out! Episode art: Viktor Vatnetsov, Knight at the Crossroads (detail)
Untimely Reflections #6: Greg from Into the Absurd - Death & God
1:23:23Sigh. When I did the soundcheck my mic was plugged in. Then, I guess the cable slipped sometime before we started rolling. So, the crisp mic quality you got in the last couple episodes is not here and I was foolishly speaking into a mic while the computer mic is what actually recorded me. But, regardless of my own failures, my guest had a lot of fascinating things to say. Today I'm talking to Greg, from Into the Absurd. I appeared on Greg's podcast some time ago, and we talked about art & religion. Our selection of topics this time is just as heady: death & God. We discuss the importance of thinkers being honest with themselves, how popular religion is a form of death worship, the philosophical means of coping with death from an atheistic worldview, and the course of society as we see it following the decline of Christianity. Check out Into the Absurd: https://open.spotify.com/show/6b6iTLzd74NhzdJkyaAjtb My appearance on Greg's podcast: https://open.spotify.com/episode/47PEkTCVOwsOuy6BGUxUWT