Friedrich Nietzsche aka The Antichrist aka Dionysus, was the most influential philosopher of the past two centuries. A casual glance over his works may lead you to think that they are the rants of a deluded, raving maniac (which, of course, they are), but how many raving maniacs have changed the course of philosophy, art and critical thought?
The Antichrist was a philosopher of life, of the world of human existence, not a philosopher of transcendent truth. (In this way, he may be seen as foreshadowing existentialism, or even as the founder of existentialism.) He derided the pious search for truth and goodness that characterizes quasi-religious philosophy. He was the first person to dare ask the question, 'What is knowledge for?' What good will it do us?' Seeing knowledge as a tool of man, rather than man as a tool of knowledge, changes everything.
He wanted people to live life fully, to destoy what was held to be sacred, such as religion, moral principles and truth itself, in favour of total individual freedom to create and destroy in accord with one's instinctual will-to-power - and to have a good laugh while doing it.
Along with Aleister Crowley (who wrote in his Confessions "Nietzsche was to me almost an avatar of Thoth, the god of wisdom" and who, like Nietzsche, thought himself identical with Dionysus) and others, Nietzsche announced the death of 'slave morality' - the morality of "blessed are the meek" - and the resurrexion of the carnivorous 'master morality' of the warrior civilizations of the past - a morality that is unashamed of self-interest and values strength, vigour and nobility.
Here his ethics tie in with his epistemology. A master morality does not value knowledge out of reverence for the sake of the ideal of Knowledge. Knowledge is not to be valued as good in itself because nothing is good in itself, things can only be good for us.
Nietzsche, a professor of philology (i.e. linguistics), was the first prophet of an age of thought in which philosophy would break out from the seduxion of language. He foresaw human thought becoming suspicious of the tracks laid down for it by grammar and attempting to think in ways unbound by such linguistic traps as the subject-predicate structure and binary values in truth and morality. Thus thinking would go 'Beyond Good and Evil', beyond Truth and Falsity and engage with the given complexity of existence. This prophesy has come to fruition with Wittgenstein, Robert Anton Wilson and Korzybski, but has not yet penetrated to the masses.
"I come as the victorious Dionysus, who will turn the world into a holiday."
"There are no facts, only perspectives."
I am by far the most terrible human being that has existed so far; this does not preclude the possibility that I shall be the most beneficial. I know the pleasure in destroying to a degree that accords with my power to destroy â€” in both respects I obey my Dionysian nature which does not know how to separate doing No from saying Yes. I am the first immoralist: thus I am the annihilator par excellence."
"Let us finally consider how naive it is altogether to say: "Man ought to be such-and-such!" Reality shows us an enchanting wealth of types, the abundance of a lavish play and change of forms - and some wretched loafer of a moralist comments: "No! Man ought to be different." He even knows what man ought to be like, this wretched bigot and prig."
Do whatever you will - but first be such men as can will!
An "altruistic" morality â€” a morality in which self-interest wilts away â€” remains a bad sign under all circumstances. This is true of individuals; it is particularly true of nations. The best is lacking when self-interest begins to be lacking. Instinctively to choose what is harmful for oneself, to feel attracted by "disinterested" motives, that is virtually the formula of decadence. "Not to seek one's own advantage" â€” that is merely the moral fig leaf for quite a different, namely, a physiological, state of affairs: "I no longer know how to find my own advantage."
Among wild cliffs I stood suddenly alone, bleak, in the bleakest moonlight. But there lay a man. And there - the dog, jumping, bristling, whining - now he saw me coming; then he howled again, he cried. Had I ever heard a dog cry like this for help? And verily, what I saw - I had never seen the like. A young shepherd I saw, writhing, gagging, in spasms, his face distorted, and a heavy black snake hung out of his mouth. Had I ever seen so much nausea and pale dread on one face? He seemed to have fallen asleep when the snake crawled into his throat, and there bit itself fast. My hand tore at the snake and tore in vain; it did not tear the snake out of his throat. Then it cried out of me - "Bite! Bite its head off! Bite!" Thus it cried out of me - my dread, my hatred, my nausea, my pity, all that is good and wicked in me cried out of me with a single cry.
You bold ones who surround me! You searchers, researchers, and whoever among you has embarked with cunning sails on unexplored seas. You who are glad of riddles! Guess me the riddle I saw tthen, interpret me the vision of the loneliest. For it was a vision and a foreseeing. What did I see then in a parable? And who is it who must yet come one day? Who is the shepherd into whose throat the snake crawled thus? Who is the man into whose throat all that is heaviest and blackest will crawl thus?
The shepherd, however, bit as my cry counselled him; he bit with a good bite. Far away he spewed the head - and he jumped up. No longer shepherd, no longer human - one changed, radiant, laughing! Never yet on earth has a human laughed as he laughed! O my brothers, I heard a laughter that was no longer human laughter; and now a thirst gnaws at me, a longing that never grows still. My longing for this laughter gnaws at me; oh, how do I bear to go on living! And how could I bear to die now!
Thus spoke Zarathustra.
"Will to truth," you who are wisest call that which impels you and fills you with lust?\ A will to the thinkability of all beings: this I call your will. You want to make all being thinkable, for you doubt with well-founded suspicion that it is already thinkable. But it shall yield and bend for you. Thus your will wants it. It shall become smooth and serve the spirit as its mirror and reflection. That is your whole will, you who are wisest: a will to power-when you speak of good and evil too, and of valuations. You still want to create the world before which you can kneel: that is your ultimate hope and intoxication.
The unwise, of course, the people-they are like a river on which a bark drifts; and in the bark sit the valuations, solemn and muffled up. Your will and your valuations you have placed on the river of becoming; and what the people believe to be good and evil, that betrays to me an ancient will to power.
It was you who are wisest who placed such guests in this bark and gave them pomp and proud names-you and your dominant will. Now the river carries your bark farther; it has to carry it. It avails nothing that the broken wave foams and angrily opposes the keel. Not the river is your danger and the end of your good and evil, you who are wisest, but that will itself, the will to power - the unexhausted procreative will of life.
But to make you understand my word concerning good and evil, I shall now say to you my word concerning life and the nature of all the living.
I pursued the living; I walked the widest and the narrowest paths that I might know its nature. With a hundredfold mirror I still caught its glance when its mouth was closed, so that its eyes might speak to me. And its eyes spoke to me.
But wherever I found the living, there I heard also the speech on obedience. Whatever lives, obeys.
And this is the second point: he who cannot obey himself is commanded. That is the nature of the living.
This, however, is the third point that I heard: that commanding is harder than obeying; and not only because he who commands must carry the burden of all who obey, and because this burden may easily crush him. An experiment and hazard appeared to me to be in all commanding; and whenever the living commands, it hazards itself. Indeed, even when it commands itself, it must still pay for its commanding. It must become the judge, the avenger, and the victim of its own law. How does this happen? I asked myself. What persuades the living to obey and command, and to practice obedience even when it commands?
Hear, then, my word, you who are wisest. Test in all seriousness whether I have crawled into the very heart of life and into the very roots of its heart.
'''Where I found the living, there I found will to power; and even in the will of those who serve I found the will to be master. ''' That the weaker should serve the stronger, to that it is persuaded by its own will, which would be master over what is weaker still: this is the one pleasure it does not want to renounce. And as the smaller yields to the greater that it may have pleasure and power over the smallest, thus even the greatest still yields, and for the sake of power risks life. That is the yielding of the greatest: it is hazard and danger and casting dice for death.
And where men make sacrifices and serve and cast amorous glances, there too is the will to be master. Along stealthy paths the weaker steals into the castle and into the very heart of the more powerful - and there steals power.
And life itself confided this secret to me: "Behold," it said, "I am that which must always overcome itself. Indeed, you call it a will to procreate or a drive to an end, to something higher, farther, more manifold: but all this is one, and one secret.
"Rather would I perish than forswear this; and verily, where there is perishing and a falling of leaves, behold, there life sacrifices itself - for power. That I must be struggle and a becoming and an end and an opposition to ends - alas, whoever guesses what is my will should also guess on what crooked paths it must proceed.
"Whatever I create and however much I love it - soon I must oppose it and my love; thus my will wills it. And you too, lover of knowledge, are only a path and footprint of my will; verily, my will to power walks also on the heels of your will to truth.
"Indeed, the truth was not hit by him who shot at it with the word of the 'will to existence': that will does not exist. For, what does not exist cannot will; but what is in existence, how could that still want existence? Only where there is life is there also will: not will to life but - thus I teach you - will to power.
"There is much that life esteems more highly than life itself; but out of the esteeming itself speaks the will to power."
Thus life once taught me; and with this I shall yet solve the riddle of your heart, you who are wisest.
Verily, I say unto you: good and evil that are not transitory, do not exist. Driven on by themselves, they must overcome themselves again and again. With your values and words of good and evil you do violence when you value; and this is your hidden love and the splendor and trembling and overflowing of your soul. But a more violent force and a new overcoming grow out of your values and break egg and eggshell.\ And whoever must be a creator in good and evil, verily, he must first be an annihilator and break values. Thus the highest evil belongs to the highest goodness: but this is creative.
Let us speak of this, you who are wisest, even if it be bad. Silence is worse; all truths that are kept silent become poisonous.\ And may everything be broken that cannot brook our truths! There are yet many houses to be built!
Thus spoke Zarathustra.